How to avoid common forklift warehouse accidents
Forklift warehouse accidents are aplenty on YouTube, and for good reason – it's easy to cause mayhem with heavy machinery. You can chalk some of it up to inexperience and a little bit more to the incompetence of the lift operator. But for the most part, forklift warehouse accidents are caused by capable drivers that were either in a hurry or didn't take the proper precautionary steps.
With that in mind, you can dodge some unintended (and embarrassing) exposure on YouTube by avoiding the behaviors and operational errors found in the following four examples:
- Operating the lift without a clear field of vision.
This is an example right out of Forklift 101 but it's amazing how many lift operators still make this mistake. Vision is often obstructed by large loads that are either too tall or too wide to allow the driver a proper view of hazards in the path of the forklift. In this video, a forklift driver in Finland had the lift loaded with cargo that completely blocked his view, causing him to drive directly into a car that pulls into his path. The smart solution here is to drive with the lift in reverse when vision in front is obstructed, providing a clear view of the path through the back of the lift, with the load trailing safely behind.
- Erratic driving – including excessive speeds, horseplay, stunt driving and jerking of the steering column.
This is such a popular topic we'll look at two examples, both resulting from extremely poor judgment. In the first video, a forklift driver gives a ride to another employee in a cage attached to the front of the lift. When the driver attempts to take a sharp turn, the weight imbalance causes the entire lift to tip over… with the employee in the cage.
- Lack of communication with other people present in the work area.
A forklift warehouse employee in this video was loading product into a truck when the driver, unaware that the forklift was in the trailer, pulled away from the loading dock, causing the forklift to fall from the back of the truck and crash onto the back loading pad. The obvious fix here is to communicate with the driver of the rig and other employees in the work area. Another helpful safety feature is the inclusion of a "spotter" – someone who walks alongside the forklift and is looking out for potential disasters.
- Hauling excessive weight in relation to load capacity.
A major home improvement retailer narrowly escaped catastrophe when a forklift driver was stocking bulk product near the front of the store. In the video, the driver had too much weight on the forks and was moving forward with the load in the air, further decreasing the stability of the lift. As a result, the lift topples forward, spilling two large pallets of material onto a checkstand and narrowly missing both the cashier and customers. By the time the driver feels the imbalance and the back tires start to rise off the floor, it's too late. Therefore, never load a forklift beyond its rated capacity, keeping in mind that the weight distribution will shift dramatically when moving objects overhead. In addition, make sure the load is secure before moving the lift, as pallets can shift or break if not protected with shrink wrap, cardboard or industrial strength straps.
Creating a forklift warehouse that's injury-free
While the above list is far from complete (especially in light of some of the bizarre things people seem to come up with), the first step in preventing many of the most common forklift accidents is employee training.
In many organizations, especially larger companies that have customers intermingling with working forklifts, drivers are certified by trainers and must complete a series of instruction on both operation and safety.
If you'd like to adopt a comparable system of best practices for your business, make sure you are familiar with the guidelines established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Abiding by these forklift safety guidelines will ensure your employees remain safe and you remain free of any hefty fines.