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Factors That Contribute to Forklift Accidents

Factors That Contribute to Forklift Accidents

What factors contribute to forklift accidents?

  • Lack of training for lift truck drivers
  • Lack of proper training for lift truck drivers
  • Lack of training for particular types of forklifts
  • Lack of training for particular forklift applications or lifting procedures within a plant
  • Incomplete or incompetent completing of daily checklist
  • Poor or improper maintenance of the forklift
  • Various reasons operator may be under stress.
  • Lift truck not equipped with the proper attachments and accessories.
  • Excessive age or excessive usage of the forklift

What driver operational factors contribute to forklift accidents?

  • Driving the forklift at unsafe high speeds
  • Allowing youths 18 or younger to operate forklifts (OSHA 29 CFR 570.58)
  • Failure to complete required refresher training and 3 year performance evaluation (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.178(l)
  • Using the forklift forks to open or close freight doors of buildings, trailers or railcars.
  • Failure to keep arms or legs from between mast uprights or within confines of the forklift
  • Improper wheels chocking of semi-trailers or railway cars---or forklifts on inclines.
  • A safe distance of at least 3 truck lengths should be maintained for reaction time
  • Improper warnings to pedestrians and forklift drivers about forklift traffic areas
  • Poor communication between operators and vehicles in close confines.
  • Incomplete or incompetent completing of daily checklist
  • Improper acceleration or turning or breaking of the forklift
  • Riding other people anywhere on the forklift or on the load.
  • Leaving key in ignition allows access by untrained driver
  • Ascending-descending incorrectly with load facing DOWNGRADE
  • Jerky---erratic movement of the forklift or lifting
  • Inadequate servicing or improper repair of the forklift.
  • Crossing railroad tracks straight on and not diagonally
  • Improper parking or exiting of the forklift procedures
  • Driver racing, horseplay or “stunt driving” on forklifts
  • Driving with elevated load on the forks
  • Improper reversing procedures and techniques
  • Allowing passing in intersections or blind spots
  • If an operator has been observed operating in unsafe manner—he should get refresher training

What plant layout and design factors contribute to forklift accidents?

  • Excessive lift truck traffic in warehouse or production areas
  • Excessive pedestrian or personel carrier traffic in warehouse or production areas
  • Crowded, cluttered confusing aisle layouts
  • Inadequate ventilation---especially in winter
  • Operating on ramps with no side rails or picking pallet loads on ramps and inclines
  • Obstructions at intersecting aisles, walkways and doors.
  • TOO narrow aisles----no room for error when turning—operating forklift
  • Areas subject to wet or slippery floors---require forklifts to slow down
  • ALL grades or inclines should be ascended or descended slowly
  • Different loading ramp styles, angles or surfaces.
  • Blind spots or obstruction in the facility that is blocking driver's view.
  • Poor condition of loading dock ramps, plates or doors
  • Do not allow parking within 8’ of a railroad track
  • Walking and working in forklift traffic areas instead of designated pedestrian walkways
  • Annoying conditions such as poor lighting, foul odors, excessive noise, toxic gases, noxious dust
  • Place heaviest loads on the bottom rack----lighter loads on the top
  • Do not enter a box car or semi-trailer without first inspecting its floor and knowing load limits
  • Potholes should be repaired---drivers attempting to divert around them can be dangerous
  • No control over SPEED ZONES (high speed and low speed)

Can an improper load factors contribute to forklift accidents?

  • Excessive load height or width which blocks driver’s forward vision.
  • Load too heavy---exceeds the lifting capacity of the forklift.
  • Extreme caution when handling unstable or off-centered pallet loads
  • Load improperly or poorly stacked on a pallet.
  • Bad pallets design or those in poor repair
  • Excessively long--high loads effect forklift’s lifting capacity
  • Removal or damage to load backrest
  • Loads not tilted back to the backrest will be less stable
  • Elevated loads tilted forward become less stable at high lift heights
  • If the load being carried obstructs forward view, the driver

What mechanical factors increase risk of forklift accidents?

  • Brake malfunction resulting in reduces slowing or stopping of the forklift.
  • Operating forklift without usage of a seatbelt---keeps operator inside cage in the event of tip over
  • Problem in directional shift linkage or transmission creates unsafe operation of forklift.
  • Malfunction of mast lifting assembly---hang ups or blockages are unsafe
  • Steering malfunction resulting in inability to properly control forklift direction
  • Hydraulic or transmission oil leaks or roof leaks---create slippery floor---effect stopping distance.
  • Excessive and noxious CO2 emissions from lift truck engine or battery.
  • Confusing layout of the lift truck hydraulic controls and displays.
  • Safety accessory devices not attached or are malfunctioning.

How can accidents with pedestrians be reduced or avoided?

  • Keep untrained and unauthorized operators OFF of equipment
  • Forklifts ALWAYS yield “right of way” to pedestrians
  • Do NOT leave keys in the ignition
  • Separate the pedestrian and forklift traffic by creating designated walkways or travel ways.
  • Prevent pedestrians from entering forklift operating areas---marked walkways or barriers.
  • Prevent or avoid driving forklifts near areas of high pedestrian traffic (like: time clocks, lunch rooms, entrances/exits, office doors etc).
  • NEVER walk near or under raised forks OR lifted loads.
  • Drive or walk extra cautiously near blind corners, doorways, and narrow aisles
  • Keep safe distances from the forklift whenever possible.
  • Pedestrians should always let the driver know they are in the area for extended periods.
  • Make eye contact with the driver to ensure your presence is known.
  • Be sure pedestrian areas are very well lit and there are no obstructions to limit forklift driver vision.
  • Consider making it a policy to sound the horn at intersections.
  • Limit lower forklift travel speeds in high pedestrian zones
  • Design loads that do not restrict the driver's viewing area.
  • Do not move the forklift if you do not have a clear view of travel
  • Pedestrians should be aware that forklifts can not stop suddenly—due to vehicle and load stability
  • Pedestrians should be aware that forklifts have a wide rear end swing radius
  • Install convex mirrors at blind aisle intersections---helping both driver and walker
  • Consider using blue forklift focused spotlights---warning pedestrians via visible blue beam on floor

What can KEYTROLLER forklift safety devices do for me?

  • KEYTROLLER LCD Wireless Access Monitoring System for Forklifts
    • Keyless RFID ignition-----trained and authorized operators only!
    • Checklist automation---be sure forklift is safe to drive!
    • Impact abuse sensing----accountability for abusive drivers
    • Speed sensing----Warn, alarm, log speeding events
    • Speedometer----shows operator his actual speed in .1 MPH/KPH
    • Maintenance scheduling----insures preventive maintenance is performed
  • Electronic safety devices installed
    • LCD access monitoring systems-- show speed, warn and alarm speed limit infractions
    • Back up alarms----warn pedestrians of nearby forklift
    • Adjustable headlights---provide better visibility to driver inside tractor trailer
    • Proximity “blue” spotlight---warns pedestrians of nearby forklift
    • High-visibility or LED vest on pedestrian, where appropriate---warns forklift operator
    • Post electronic speed radar signs in critical areas—warns shows driver his current speed
    • Rear view camera---can be very helpful in applications handling large oversized loads
    • “Zone” speed controllers---control speeds in different zones

Preparing for an Accident

Preparing for an accident requires that the entity have four things in place: planning, attitude, supplies, and communications.

Planning Ahead

The entity will never know in advance what accidents will occur or when, but it can plan ahead to know what the most likely risks are in a given situation to prepare for and, hopefully, avoid them. Having specific plans in place for various types of accidents and regularly training employees to work within those plans is one of the most effective means of ensuring that accidents will be avoided when possible and handled appropriately when they do occur. Your public entity should assign a safety committee to regularly monitor and update the entity’s accident plans, recommend training for employees and volunteers, and walk through the entity’s work sites to check for potentially unsafe conditions.

Attitude of Safety

In addition to planning for accidents and responding to them, instilling an attitude of safety among employees reduces the risk of having accidents occur. Workplace safety training instructs workers on best practices and helps avoid common mishaps. Policies and procedures should also reflect that safety is a priority within the public entity. If employees are encouraged to cut corners to reduce costs or get a job done more quickly, the attitude of safety is undermined and an accident is more likely to occur. Having a safety committee in place that has the authority to make changes where unsafe conditions or practices are found shows that the entity is dedicated to providing a safe environment.

The Right Supplies

An important part of preparing for an accident is having the right supplies available if an accident does occur. Minor accidents can become major ones if the entity does not keep basic emergency first aid kits and other job-specific emergency medical supplies on hand at all times. A member of the safety committee should be designated as a “Safety Officer” to regularly monitor and maintain the first aid kits, emergency car kits, and job-specific emergency supplies as needed. Accident preparation and response training for public employees should include training on the proper use of emergency equipment. Depending on the nature of the entity, the work done, and the proximity to medical facilities, the entity may need to provide first aid and CPR training for some or all employees.

Emergency Contacts and Communications

Another essential component of preparing for an accident is having emergency contact information and communication plans in place. During training, employees should be told who to contact and how to contact the person in case of an accident. In the case of an auto or other offsite accident, the employee may need to call 911 or other emergency response professionals first and then contact the entity designee regarding the accident. Employees on work sites may require wireless communications devices or other emergency communications equipment and should be trained in their safe and appropriate use.

Responding to an Accident

Depending on the situation, the entity may or may not need all the steps listed below, but this outline works in nearly all situations:

  • Get to a safe place
    Regardless of the situation, getting to a safe place after an accident will help prevent any additional accidents of injuries from occurring. This will allow senior management to assess the situation and proceed.
  • Assess the situation
    Is anyone injured? Do you need to call 911? Has any property been damaged? Answering these basic questions will determine the next steps.
  • Call for help
    In any case of injury, getting professional help immediately will minimize the risks of the situation and prevent injuries from getting worse. Know the limits of what can and cannot be handled internally. If anything beyond very simple first aid is required, always get EMS or other professionals involved right away.
  • Assist the injured
    Provide first aid where possible; stabilize those with major injuries.
  • Get information
    Record the details of the accident while they are fresh in the minds of those involved and who witness the event. Time can change the way the incident is viewed and people’s memories of it, so write down all information immediately. Get contact information from others involved whenever possible, and get insurance information where necessary.
  • Keep the evidence
    Following an accident, the safety officer and/or the Safety Committee should quickly take action to assess the situation to prevent any further injuries. The Safety Committee may recommend long-term changes, but the entity management should always do what they can to keep others safe in the short term, as well.
  • Follow up
    File the appropriate paperwork as required by federal or state OSHA and the entity’s insurance company, and provide any assistance necessary as requested by the Safety Committee or human resources department.

Creating a Culture of Safety

Answer “Yes” or “No.”

  • “Safety” is part of the language of the public entity?
  • Safety is part of your entity’s value structure?
  • Safety is considered something that is everyone job?
  • Employees are rewarded in a tangible, visible way for promoting safety?
  • Safe practices are part of the unwritten rules of the entity?
  • Safety concerns are evident in the interaction among staff and in their interaction with members of the public?
  • New employees are briefed on safety procedures?
  • New employees know that there are consequences for ignoring safety practices or engaging in unsafe behavior?
  • Consequences for ignoring safety practices or engaging in unsafe behavior are enforced?
  • Utilizing technology and electronic devices for improving safety, productivity and accountability?