Off-dock accidents happen when a forklift falls from a dock when an operator is loading a trailer, note industry experts. This can happen when companies don’t use wheel chocks placed behind tractor trailer tires when the trailer is backed up to the dock door. Wheel chocks prevent the trailer from separating from the dock floor, keeping the trailer in place as the forklift operator drives into the trailer with a load. If chocks are not used, the truck can separate from the dock, causing the forklift to fall to the ground, which can result in serious injuries or death to the operator (see Dock Safety on page 18).
Prevention: Brewer reports that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studied trained versus untrained operators prior to OSHA standard 29CFR 1910.178 for powered industrial trucks going into effect. “The study found that operator training reduced operator mistakes by as much as 44 percent. Beyond this, Crown has been focusing on proper training for supervisors as well to further reduce operator mistakes causing accidents. NIOSH found that when operators were trained and provided proper supervision, the result was a 70 percent reduction in operator mistakes, which equates to a near doubling of effectiveness.”
Although supervisor training is not mandatory, Brewer reports that Crown is trying to get the trend started because of the significant benefits in reducing accidents. “Since operator training was a big frontier and resulted in a big payback, we believe the next big frontier for the industry is supervisor training.”
According to OSHA, 1.5 million workers nationally operate 1 million powered industrial trucks. Annually, about 100 workers are killed using these trucks and about 95,000 are injured. The OSHA standard was designed to save at least 12 lives annually and to prevent about 10 percent of the accidents related to using these trucks.
Crown’s LeadSafe is a safety training program designed specifically for supervisors of industrial truck operators. “All too often, supervisors have had not forklift training and don’t know what the safe rules of operation are,” explains Brewer. “So this program trains supervisors on what safe forklift operation is and what to look for in unsafe practices. It helps train supervisors to be able to identify unsafe operator behaviors so they can encourage them to remember and practice the safety training they had been taught during their initial operator training course.”
When Brock writes training programs for APL, she makes sure the programs address three audiences: supervisors, operators and pedestrians. “Frontline managers are a critical element because they must understand what safe equipment driving looks like so they can make sure their operators are operating safely,” she says.
The dynamic between working forklift operators and pedestrians is critical. Pedestrians must respect the fact that operators often cannot see them because of visibility limitations while driving loaded forklifts.
“I am constantly reminding them not to do is to stand in the proximity of a forklift and always to be defensive around an equipment operator,” Brock says. “I tell them to make sure they always get the attention of an operator to make the operator aware that they are in the area. I encourage pedestrian workers to wear colored vests similar to what construction workers wear so they are more visible to forklift operators.”
Brock urges forklift operators to slow down around workers on the floor. “Even though some of these practices are not regulated, I teach that not paying attention to what is happening around you can result in serious injuries for yourself and for others.”
Although wheel chocking is such a critical task, sometimes people are unsure of who is actually responsible for chocking. OSHA says wheels have to be chocked when forklift operators are loading trailers—but it doesn’t say who is responsible to do this, say some in the industry. In order to clarify the responsibilities in this arena, companies might remind truck drivers when they turn in their paperwork to have their wheels chocked before loading can begin. It’s really a matter of establishing policy so people are clear about their responsibilities. Forklift operators should assure themselves that the wheels are, indeed, chocked before loading begins.
Brock says the dock area presents some of the most dangerous risks to workers, especially to equipment operators. “A trailer pulling away from a dock is the most critical risk facing operators because when this happens, operators can suffer serious injury or even death,” she says. Some APL warehouses do not have dock locks, so Brock implemented a company-wide practice called Glad-Hand and Cone policy.