Safe Work NSW reports that every year forklifts continue to cause workplace deaths and injuries resulting in substantial financial and human costs for workers, industry and the community. Safe Work NSW states that one of the reasons why people are killed or seriously injured by a forklift includes not wearing a seat belt in a tip-over.
Why Wear a Seatbelt?
Overturning or tipping is one of the greatest risks to death by forklift operators driving forklifts and accounts for one in six deaths. WorkSafe reported that between January 1985 and January 2006, out of the 56 forklift related fatalities, ten deaths were caused when an operator jumped or fell from a forklift and was crushed
Wearing a seatbelt ensures that operators cannot jump out or fall out and remain in the cabin when they are involved in a forklift accident where the forklift is overturning or tipping over. Understandably, the operator’s response to jumping out of the forklift would be a natural response or what is known as the fight-or-flight response; a physiological reaction that occurs in the presence of something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically. The response is either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety
However, WorkSafe stated that the safest place for an operator is in the cabin with the seatbelt on. This ensures the operator cannot try to jump out of the way or fall underneath the forklift if it tips.
WHS Laws and Regulations
As forklifts create a high-risk of serious injury and death, the WHS laws places an obligation on the persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to reduce or mitigate these risks.
This process of reducing or minimising the risk includes:
- Ensuring a safe work environment
- Providing a safe system of work
- Ensuring safe and well-maintained machinery
- Providing proper information, training and supervision.
Coupled with hazard management and an effective traffic management plan.
In addition, Safe Work Australia’s WHS Regulation includes the Code of Practice – “General Guide for Industrial lift trucks”, which provides information about managing risks for people who carry out activities involving industrial lift trucks.
This Code provides practical guidance for PCBU’s, who have management or control of industrial lift trucks/forklifts in workplaces on how to manage the risks when buying, hiring, operating, maintaining and repairing industrial lift trucks.
The Requirements of the Law and Seat Belt
SafeWork NSW states that:
Seatbelts keep you in the cab during a tip over event and prevent you from being thrown from your seat.
- A seat belt must be worn at, ALL times.
- Consider fitting an interlock switch to the seat belt to prevent operation of the forklift when the seat belt is not worn.
OSHA does not have a specific rule requiring forklifts to have seat belts. However, employers are required to protect employees from “serious and recognized hazards.” … Employers are responsible for ensuring that forklift operators are wearing their seat belts.
The Australian Standard AS:2359
The Forklift Market reports that, Forklifts have some of the most well-developed Australian Standards, with the majority of standards coming under AS2359. The Forklift Market describes the Australian Standards as documents that set out specifications, procedures and guidelines that aim to ensure products, services and systems are at a consistently high, safe, consistent and reliable standard. One that has recently changed is Forklift Seat Belts.
As manufacturing improves so does the associated standards. Being familiar with the standards can go a long way to helping you in your business. The new revision of the AS2359.1.2017 have included forklift seat belts that are fitted into the trucks with a safety component that ensure the operators are buckled up before the vehicle is in motion.
In short, the article read:
“Forklift seat belts where fitted SHALL:
- Be Interlocked to prevent the truck moving Forward or Reverse UNTIL the seatbelt is buckled.
- In sequence of:
- Operator sitting in the seat PRIOR
- to the seatbelt being engaged
- The System shall not be able to be overridden
It’s pretty simple, be aware, it might save you time and money and prevent a serious accident.”
How can serious injury and death be prevented?
Providing forklift operators with a restraint system which includes seat belts is only a part of the preventative measures. The operator’s behaviour needs to be taken into account. For further reading refer to VSB Issue 008 – The Importance of Operator Training.
Some ways operators can prevent tipping or over turning is by avoiding the following when operating a forklift:
- accelerating quickly in reverse
- braking too quickly, especially when loaded
- braking or accelerating while cornering, or travelling down a slope
- colliding with another vehicle
- overloading the forklift
- using unsuitable attachments and equipment
- causing the mast to collide with a structure.
Importantly; operators should have easy access to the manufacturer’s instructions to operate industrial lift trucks/forklifts safely. Specific training on how to operate industrial lift trucks/forklifts should be provided by a competent person.