Forklifts and industrial lifting trucks are central to logistics operations, and are high risk; particularly for those working alongside them. They are used to lift, stack and transfer loads in warehouses, factories, shipping yards, freight terminals and other workplaces.
While forklifts offer alternatives to manual handling and practical materials handling solution for many businesses, each year they are known to cause workplace deaths and injuries. These forklift-related incidents come at a substantial human and financial cost of for workers, industry and the community.
Forklifts are responsible for serious injuries
“Five workers lives are changed every workday”
The British Safety Council reports that approximately 1,300 UK employees are hospitalised each year with serious injuries following forklift accidents. These injuries are debilitating and life-changing; and include complex fractures, dislocations, degloving and amputations. This number is increasing.
The accident statistics show forklifts are classified as the most dangerous form of workplace transport in the country; injuring more people than heavy and large goods vehicle. In fact, 25% of workplace transport injuries were a direct result of forklift accidents.
Pedestrians are at risk too, with 57% of those injured or killed in forklift accidents. This highlights the need for better segregation between vehicle and pedestrian areas of the workplace. This is a particularly pressing issue in high-traffic areas like loading bays, where pedestrians and forklifts are regularly in close proximity. Some safety measure to manage this risk may be the use of barricades. Click on this link to see possible example that you could use in your workplace.
Within in the US, out of all the fatal workplace injuries that occur each year, one in six is attributed to forklift accidents. Forklifts have higher fatalities than chippers, drilling machines, backhoes and cranes. There are more than 100 fatal accidents and 110,000 forklift accidents per year. Approximately 90 percent of forklifts will at some point in their life be involved in an accident, with 11 percent having an accident each year.
Incidents of Forklift tipping are common
“42 percent of the accidents leading to death include tipping of the vehicle, leading to the operator being crushed”. Occupational Health and Safety
As forklifts must be manoeuvrable, they are designed to be compact. But when carrying loads, they can become unstable. Fully loaded, a standard two-ton forklift can weigh approximately five tons in total. With lower stability and greater manoeuvrability combined with uncontrolled traffic areas in workplaces it’s understandable why forklifts are involved in so many incidents and accidents. However, forklift incidents and accidents can be prevented, especially when workers and management work together to improve health and safety at work.
Forklifts have a high risk of crushing
“OSHA statistics indicate that there are roughly 85 forklift fatalities and 34,900 serious injuries each year, with 42 percent of the forklift fatalities from the operator’s being crushed by a tipping vehicle. The safest place for the driver to be is strapped into the seat with a seat belt.”
Using a seat belt is one of the simplest safety measures to follow and plays a great role in protecting the driver. It is also important that forklift operators understand some key aspects of operating one of these vehicles, especially the stability triangle, load centre and centre of gravity to avoid tipping. Site-specific training and following occupational safety and health guidelines also helps to prevent forklift accidents.
Operating Forklifts safely
“Even at low speeds, forklifts can cause serious injuries and fatalities”.
It’s not just the worker using the forklift who can be injured; pedestrians can be struck by a forklift or its load. Forklifts pose several risks to pedestrians in the workplace. The rear counterweight can turn very quickly (running the risk of crushing a pedestrian), plus forklifts are heavy, take time to stop and have several blind spots
Forklifts can be dangerous when not treated with respect and can inflict serious damage to worksite property and worse, cause injuries or even death. The human and financial cost of forklift-related accidents is significant; however, many forklift incidents could be avoided if operators follow the best-practices of forklift safety.
This Safety Alert video from SafeWork NSW explain simple step and strategies to manage and prevent the risk of forklift accidents.