What should you do if you’re driving a forklift and it starts to tip over? Is it safer to stay in the vehicle, or to jump out quickly?
If you said, “Jump out,” you’d be dead wrong. A driver who did that would be putting his or her life in jeopardy. The safest way to survive a tip-over is to stay inside the vehicle, seat belt always fastened, with a tight grip on the steering wheel and feet braced against the floor, leaning forward and away from the direction of the tip-over.
Because forklifts are typical equipment in warehouses, many people may not realize they can be potentially dangerous. “Driving a forklift requires special skills and knowledge,” says Benjamin Mangan, president and founder of MANCOMM, Davenport, IA. MANCOMM develops and provides Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance safety products and training for general industry and construction. “It scares me how little training some forklift operators receive. It’s every company’s responsibility to make sure its forklift operators are properly trained and certified before they ever get to run a forklift in the workplace.”
The following accident examples from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveal the three most common types of forklift injuries: forklift overturns; workers struck, crushed, or pinned by a forklift; and falls from a forklift.
Forklift overturn: The president of a sign company was killed while using a forklift to unload steel tubing from a flatbed trailer. He turned the forklift behind the trailer, and the forklift began to tip over on its side. So he jumped from the operator’s seat to the driveway. When the forklift overturned, his head and neck became pinned to the concrete driveway under the overhead guard. The forklift was not in proper working order and was not equipped with a seat belt.
Worker struck by forklift: A punch press operator at a computer components manufacturer was fatally injured while performing her usual duties. A forklift was traveling in reverse at high speed toward her work station. A witness observed the forklift strike a metal scrap bin, propelling it toward the punch press station. The bin hit the press and rebounded toward the forklift. There it was hit once again and shoved back against the corner of the press, striking and crushing the punch press operator.
Fall from forklift: An electric-line technician was fatally injured after falling from and being run over by a forklift. While the operator was driving the forklift, the technician was riding on the forks. As the operator approached an intersection, he slowed down and turned his head to check for oncoming traffic. When he looked to the front again, he could not see the technician. He stopped the forklift, dismounted, and found the technician under the right side of the forklift.
How familiar are you with forklifts and their safe operation? Take this quiz and find out. Then pass it on to all your employees, and have them take it as well.