Forklift Operator Training: Lessen Your Chance of Accidents

Did you know that there are approximately 66,500 accidents involving forklifts every year? Did you know that it was a federal law to have all of your operators certified? Did you know that practicing the safety practices one learns in forklift operator training is the best way to help you or your employees not contribute to the accident statistics?

HOW ACCIDENTS OCCUR

There are four main categories forklift accidents fall into:

Forklift Tip Overs

Forklifts are really powerful, heavy machines but they aren’t infallible and they can tip over. If an operator tries to lift more than the forklift’s rated capacity or they move a load with the mast extended, a forklift tip over can occur. Forklift operator training discusses why tip-overs occur and understanding this helps put operators in a vigilance-ready position. In brief, it has to do with the center of gravity of a forklift. The center of gravity moves when a forklift is engaged and when it is picking up a load. When it moves outside of the stability triangle, the forklift will tip over. This is why it is vital the mast is operated while the forklift is stopped, and operators don’t life more than the forklifts rated capacity.

Be careful when lifting loads that have a length more than double the rated capacity’s load center and with attachments as each of those activities will lower the forklift’s actual capacity. The forklift’s data plate will indicate the forklift’s capacity at a certain load center (usually 24 inches). That means that the load (if evenly shaped) cannot be more than 48 inches long. A 48 inch load (that is evenly shaped) has a 24 inch load center because that’s where that load’s center of gravity is. A 60 inch length load has a 30 inch load center etc., etc. Attachments can permanently alter a forklift’s rated capacity and a new data plate should be installed in those cases. You can have your operators learn more about these concepts in forklift operator training. 

If the forklift does tip over, it is important for the operator to grab tightly onto the steering wheel, brace their feet, and lean in the opposite direction of the fall. Basically, the operator wants to do all they can to stay in the operator’s compartment. Jumping from the forklift or falling out of the compartment comes with a high likelihood of being struck by the body of the forklift or the overhead guard. A forklift generally weighs just under double it’s rated capacity, which can often lead to fatalities and serious injuries if one is struck by it in a tip-over.

Falling Objects

Objects falling from high or low can be fatal depending on the mass of the object and the velocity it reaches while falling. This can happen if, while backing up, the forks accidentally grab a pallet and pull it off a shelf. It can happen if a load isn’t properly stored on a shelf, or it can happen if there is a load not properly balanced on the forks. This last one can happen due to a variety of reasons, all of which are covered in forklift operator training.  

Being Struck by a Forklift

Being struck by a forklift is another category injuries tend to fall in. Pedestrians and operators can be struck by the forks, tires or even the body of the forklift in non-tip over situations. As we discussed above, a forklift typically weighs slightly less than double it’s rated capacity so these impacts have a lot of force behind them. It is vital to have your operators drive with the forks only about 2 inches off the ground when not carrying a load and only about 4 inches off the ground when carrying a load. Why? This best ensures that a pedestrian isn’t struck in the groin, abdomen or head with the forklift forks or a load while a forklift is in motion. An operator should, under no circumstances leave a forklift in neutral and exit the lift. This has directly lead to fatalities in the past and should NEVER be done. It is the operator’s number one responsibility to ensure safety of pedestrians. That is why honking when going through doorways or around corners is required, and vigilantly looking for pedestrians and other hazards is important. Your operators can learn more about these and other hazards in forklift operator training. 

Loading Dock

The loading dock area is where roughly 7% of all forklift-related accidents occur. This usually related to the trailer not being secured in place and forklift falling off the dock. These situations are extremely dangerous due to the roughly 4 foot fall the forklift takes when falling to the pavement. The surprise and fall makes it even harder for the operator to stay in the compartment for the duration of the fall. It is important that operators ensure that the trailer is secured in place before entering the truck and the driver doesn’t try to leave until loading is complete.

SO WHAT DOES TRAINING LOOK LIKE?

Forklift operator training is performed by an OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) certified safety trainer. It consists of classroom education followed by in-the-field, hands-on training. It can be performed at your location or at the trainer’s facility. It is required to have your new operators trained and certified but it is also a good idea to have your veteran operators re-trained. The majority of forklift-related accidents occur with 45 – 54 year old operators. Don’t let them get complacent and comfortable! To sign up or ask us about forklift operator training or aerial lift operator training, call, chat or email us today!