Forklifts are among the most frequently used pieces of equipment in the workplace; because they are small compact machines, designed to navigate very narrow aisle and have a great lifting capacity.
They are efficient for moving heavy goods and supplies from one place to another with little effort; yet the most dangerous and cause serious accidents.
There are many things that can cause forklift accidents, including:
- the absence of training or insufficient training,
- inattentiveness by drivers,
- incorrect tools and attachments, and
- failure to maintain the forklift.
General accidents involve vehicle tip-overs, which can lead to operator fatalities, and forklifts pinning and crushing individuals against another surface.
Having the correct safety measures in place is significant to prevent these injuries and reduce the risk of fatalities.
In the previous blog post, the iceberg theory was utilised as an analogy of direct cost, which is the amount not covered by insurance; versus an indirect or associated cost which is an expense that affects the viability and profitability of the business. The media had reported, that the cause of the accident was that the abattoir had an inadequate traffic system in place, with no exclusion zones or barriers set up to separate pedestrians from forklifts.
Is it worth the risk?
Given this knowledge about the indirect cost or associated cost being 4 times greater than the direct cost, does it not make sense to manage the risk in the workplace and prevent any incidents or accident from occurring. That would mean updating the traffic management system and purchasing and erecting exclusion zones or barriers set up to separate pedestrians from forklifts.
One of the expenses for the indirect cost was for downtime. With regards to the abattoir, one worker was seriously injured, which would have created downtime for the other workers.
For example, work would have stopped:
- While the injured worker was receiving medical attention
- The accident report to the Regulator and the waiting period for the inspectorates visit to the worksite
- The worksite corded off and left untouched until the investigation was carried out and
- The workplace given a clearance before commencing operations again.
What is the estimated cost of downtime?
On the Swift Systems Inc., blog posts it read that,
“In 2014, a study revealed that the average downtime cost per hour for a business was $164,000. By 2016, that statistic had exploded by 59% to $260,000 per hour.
On the Insight blog post, William Wu wrote that,
“Every year since 2008, ITIC has sent out an independent survey to measure downtimes costs and over time the average cost of a single hour of downtime has risen by 25% to 30%.”
The staggering results collated were that:
- 98% of organisations said a single hour of downtime costs over $100,000
- 81% of respondents indicated that 60 minutes of downtime costs their business over $300,000
- 33% of those enterprises reported that one hour of downtime costs their firms $1-5 million
While these examples are averages for business and large organisation it is important to see that downtime is a significant unaccounted expense. The downtime is further impounded by the loss in productivity. For example, the forklift would be inoperable and work ceased until the investigation was completed and the vehicle inspected and passed to ensure no damages had incurred.
Does it Make Good Sense to Make Safety a Priority?
It’s important to understand that the simplest way and first step to take in prevention and minimise risk is through forklift safety training. Most accidents occur when there are deadlines and someone is in a rush and omits basic steps to get things moving.
Whilst meeting deadlines is important, if safety is overlooked and an accident occurs then there is downtime and the consequences that go with it. It’s preferable to take the time to ensure that the safety process has been followed and avoid causing injuries or fatalities.
When managing risk around forklifts, the obvious hazard is the potential to harm pedestrians, hence; develop a traffic management plan and erect structure to separate pedestrians from forklift traffic.
Get to know and Identify other potential hazards in the workplace
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, to avoid workplace risks and prevent accidents:
You need to be aware that:
- Most accidents occur in the docking areas, around forklifts, conveyors, material storage and manual handling.
- Common injuries are from slip, trip falls: manual handling tasks, material handling and forklift accidents.
- 20,000 workers are injured in forklift accidents annually, and 25% of those are the result of the forklift overturning.
- 42% of forklift fatalities are the result of crushing when the vehicle tips and operated with no seat belt.
- Pallet jack failures are the result of damage from the forklift, racks overloaded, racks with altered configurations, not using the equipment correctly, using smaller rack capacity, and faulty equipment.
Be Proactive, not Reactive:
To prevent accidents, you need insight into:
- Driver behaviour – is it good and bad, so poor habits can be addressed,
- Safety checks for vehicles –are these carried out, and do they identify mechanical issues,
- How and if, logs and records are maintained.
- Traffic management plans – are they working well and are speed limits enforcement and
- Systems that observe trends, so risk-mitigation plans can be implemented.
Managers need to review previous events and implement strategies to prevent them from occurring.
Workplace injuries and deaths are devastating, not only to the injured worker and their family; but their peers and the industry reputation. While the cost of workplace accidents and injuries may be covered by insurance: pay attention to the associated cost or indirect costs that are 4 to 10 times greater and impact on the business viability and profitability.