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The best forklift safety and operator training

Author: Business and Learning Resources

Forklift accidents result in 20,000 injuries to workers and forklift operators every year. Most incidents with forklifts also involve property damage. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), which regulates the use of forklifts, most of the injuries and property damage from forklifts can be attributed to three causes:

  • Insufficient or inadequate forklift training.  An operator was killed when his forklift overturned while he was turning and backing it down an incline with the forks raised 60 inches off the ground. A properly trained forklift operator would have known to keep the forks low and to avoid turning on an incline.
  • Failure to follow safe forklift operating procedures.  An operator ignored an OSHA-mandated safe operating procedure (e.g., “operate a truck at a speed that will permit it to be stopped safely”) and drove his truck in reverse at high speed. The forklift hit a metal scrap bin, propelling it toward a punch press station where a computer components-maker was working. The worker was crushed against the press and killed.
  • Lack of safety rule enforcement. In violation of a basic OSHA safety rule (“do not use a forklift to elevate workers standing on the forks”) a warehouse worker was killed when he fell 16 feet from an unstable pallet teetering on the forks that had just lifted him up to place items on a high storage shelf.

Of course, employees don’t have to become OSHA fatality or injury statistics. All of OSHA’s top three causes of forklift accidents stem from safety deficiencies that you can directly control and promptly correct with a bit of foresight and a healthy dose of careful supervision.

Why Is Forklift Safety Compliance Important?

Forklifts are regulated under OSHA’s Powered Industrial Trucks rule for general industry workplaces at 29 CFR 1910.178. The rule contains safety requirements relating to fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of forklifts and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.

OSHA’s forklift operation and training requirements state that training must be completed before an operator is assigned to operate a forklift. The employer must certify that each forklift operator is competent to operate a forklift safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of a training and evaluation program.

Refresher training and an evaluation of the effectiveness of that training must be provided at least every 3 years.