In the whole world, forklift trucks are essential tools used in logistics to transport inventories around a warehouse. At the same time that they are highly useful, forklifts also represent a potential source of hazards if not operated correctly, and thus safety guidelines and orientations must always be implemented for their use.
Just in the Netherlands, it is estimated that approximately 1,700 forklift accidents happen per year. Of those, 150 accidents result in injuries and 7 lead to death. Such statistics demonstrate that there is a big room for improvement regarding forklift operation safety, especially related to training employees.
When we look at the accidents caused by forklifts, the following are the main occurrences:
- Forklift collides with a pedestrian (usually caused by vision obstruction)
- Forklift load falls on a pedestrian
- Operators falling from the forklift’s platform
- Forklift’s platform crushing someone on the floor
- Forklift tips over due to excessive load
- Some object hits an operator standing on the forks
The video below shows a forklift accident at 12 seconds, where a man walking up a ramp is hit from behind by a forklift and dragged, while the forklift operator’s view is blocked by the load being carried:
Safety concepts must be applied to reduce or mitigate the odds of such accidents happening. Some of the controls that can be implemented include:
- Develop ways to enhance the forklift operator’s vision field, such as installing wide view cameras on the driver’s control panel that shows if there are pedestrians behind/in front of the load;
- Always follow loading safety protocols in order to avoid objects falling from the forks and maintain the balance;
- Install sensors on the forklift that automatically stops its movement in case it detects anyone passing in a range of 1 m (for instance) behind/in front of the forklift;
- Install sensors on the forklift that automatically stops the platform from lowering in case there is anyone below it;
- Install protection devices such as poka-yokes to warn the operator in case the forklift’s load capacity is surpassed;
- Always use the parking brake and remove the keys when the forklift is not being used;
- Respect the maximum speeds allowed in the warehouse, or even install systems that do not allow the maximum speed to be surpassed;
- And finally and perhaps most important, ensure that all forklift operators have received adequate and sufficient training according to OSHA’s standards before operating any forklift.
The following chart from Heftruck Nederlands summarizes forklift accidents’ data from 2016 and presents some additional points about the causes and possible controls for accidents: