Powered industrial trucks, commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, are used in many industries, primarily to move materials. They can also be used to raise, lower, or remove large objects or a number of smaller objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers. Powered industrial trucks can either be ridden by the operator or controlled by a walking operator.
Note: Over-the-road haulage trucks and earth-moving equipment that has been modified to accept forks are not considered powered industrial trucks.
Approximately 100 employees are fatally injured and approximately 95,000 employees are injured every year while operating powered industrial trucks. Forklift turn-over accident accounts for the most significant number of these fatalities.
There are many types of powered industrial trucks. Each type presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck.
Workplace type and conditions are also factors in hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks. For example, retail establishments often face greater challenges than other worksites in maintaining pedestrian safety. Beyond that, many workers and others can also be injured in any of the following scenarios:
Forklift stability consists of four things:
On a forklift, the fulcrum point is the location at which front axle and the load is balanced by the weight of the forklift's counterweight and battery (if electric).
A forklift's center of gravity is the point at which all of the weight of the forklift is concentrated and a new center of gravity is created with every load. Imagine you're riding a tricycle—think of it as a triangle on wheels. If you peddle around a corner and shift your center of gravity forward over the front wheel, you'll tip over. If you shift your center of gravity over the rear wheels, you are less likely to tip over.
Factors that cause a forklift to tip forward are:
If the combined center of gravity moves outside of the stability triangle, the forklift tends to tip sideways.
Factors that cause a forklift to tip sideways are:
To prevent forklift accidents, be sure to follow the guidelines and best practices below:
An untrained operator of a forklift can be as dangerous as an unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle. It is a violation of Federal law for anyone under 18 years of age to operate a forklift or for anyone 18 years of age or older who is not properly trained and certified to do so.
OSHA regulations require that the employer ensures that a forklift operator is competent to operate the forklift he or she is assigned to use. The employer must document operator training and an evaluation of the operator’s performance while using the forklift.
Training has three parts:
Refresher may be required if the operator has been involved in an accident, near miss or unsafe operations. Also, if an operator is assigned to a new type of forklift or if workplace conditions change that could affect safety, then refresher training is required.
The topics listed in the table below should be covered when training a forklift operator. If a specific topic does not apply to the forklift in the employer’s workplace, covering it is optional.
|Topics related to powered industrial trucks||Topics related to your workplace|
|Operating instructions||Surface conditions where the PIT will be operated|
|Warnings and precautions for the types of PIT the operator will be authorized to operate||Composition of loads to be carried and load stability|
|Differences between the PIT and the automobile||Load manipulation, stacking, and un-stacking|
|PIT controls and instrumentation: Where they are located, what they do, and how they work||Pedestrian traffic in areas where the PIT will be operated|
|Engine or motor operation||Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the PIT will be operated|
|Steering and maneuvering||Use of door opening and closing devices|
|Visibility (including restrictions due to loading)||Hazardous (classified) locations where the PIT will be operated|
|Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations||Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the PITs stability|
|PIT capacity||Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor PIT maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust|
|PIT stability||Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation|
|Any PIT inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform|
|Charging and recharging of batteries|
|Any other operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operator’s manual for the types of PIT that the employee is being trained to operate|
Using and working around heavy equipment and machinery construction sites can lead to serious injury or death. Construction workers and vehicle operators should not be allowed to handle heavy machinery without proper training. Failing to follow proper safety precautions, hurrying, and a lack of attention are major causes of construction equipment accidents.
Follow the precautions and best practices below to make sure operators and others working around heavy equipment do not get injured or killed.
Make sure all vehicles are equipped with:
Here are some other things to keep in mind:
Ensure all operators have been trained on the equipment they will use.
Check vehicles at the beginning of each shift to ensure that the parts, equipment, and accessories are in safe operating condition. Repair or replace any defective parts or equipment prior to use.
Do not operate a vehicle in reverse with an obstructed rear view unless it has a reverse signal alarm capable of being heard above ambient noise levels or a signal observer indicates that it is safe to move.
Keep all workers at a safe distance during heavy equipment operations.
Traffic controls should conform to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD contains the national standards governing all traffic control devices. All public agencies and owners of private roads open to public travel across the nation rely on the MUTCD to bring uniformity to the roadway.
Safety precautions for traffic control workers include all of the following:
To be effective, a traffic control device should meet five basic requirements:
Employees exposed to hazards caused by on-highway type moving vehicles in construction zones and highway traffic should wear highly visible upper body garments.
A foreman's 15 year-old step-son was tragically killed while the youth was operating a forklift at the warehouse. The victim was being shown how to operate the forklift and was practicing picking up and moving empty pallets. He had just unloaded a pallet in the warehouse and had picked the empty pallet off the floor when he lost control of the forklift. The police investigator stated that the forklift suddenly went backward, crashed open a closed loading bay door and dropped four feet to the ground. The victim fell off and the forklift landed on top of him. The victim was pinned to the ground and sustained massive chest injuries.
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