In early September, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) proposed a fine of $76,005 against a frozen foods and perishables logistics provider for 13 alleged safety and health violations at its Delaware warehouse.
Meanwhile, a Pepsi warehouse and production plant in Tampa, FL has two OSHA investigations pending: one involving a lift truck accident last spring that killed one man and injured another, the other an injury to a worker’s leg that occurred last month when he was cleaning a conveyor system.
Safety violations and accidents, whether they occur in the warehouse, behind the wheel of a truck, or at the marine terminal are not only costly in many instances, they can be deadly, and they happen far too often.
During 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 4,547 fatal work injuries in the U.S., with the transportation and material moving sector accounting for about one quarter of the total.
On the floor
Forklift-related accidents alone are responsible for nearly 100 worker deaths in the U.S. each year, says Joe Manone, vice president at Rite-Hite Corporation.
“The situation calls for clear communication to the right person, at the right time, and at exactly the right location, especially at the loading dock where forklifts and pedestrians are often on a collision course,” he says. “Forklift drivers also need to be aware of what’s happening at all times during the fast-paced semi-trailer loading and unloading process.”
The good news, says Manone, is that communication-related technologies and best practices have evolved to reduce the risks of forklift-pedestrian collisions and other catastrophic accidents at the loading dock.
“Investing in technology that take communication to the highest possible level, combined with time-tested safety forklift practices, delivers invaluable results,” he says.
“On the employer’s side of the issue, many companies have refined their safety policies and procedures concerning forklifts,” he notes. “The call is out for more forklift-operator training as more [companies and workers] become aware of the facts. In 2006, OSHA issued 3,080 forklift violations, most for inadequate operator training. And, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety, the second most common cause of forklift-related fatalities is when a forklift strikes a worker on foot.”
One of the most difficult places to operate a forklift is the shipping/receiving/staging area of a loading dock, Manone says. “When combined with the fast-paced nature of most docks, the need to ensure forklift operator and pedestrian safety takes on added importance.”
Some of the challenges associated with operating forklifts on the dock range from maneuvering in tight confines to negotiating frequently slippery surfaces.
While “loading and unloading trailers makes the job even more challenging, especially when multiple forklifts are used simultaneously to service the same trailer,” adds Manone. “Servicing trailers also requires skill and close concentration. An extra level of focus is essential when production and shipping deadlines dictate a faster-than-normal pace.”
For forklift operators, “the bottom line is to use caution at all times,” Manone emphasizes. “From a pedestrian’s perspective, the safest course of action is to watch for forklifts, while other forklift drivers who enter the dock staging area when forklifts are already servicing trailers are expected to remain on high alert.”
When it comes to forklifts and safety, Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. has been recognized on several fronts.
In July, the company announced that the Service Parts Management department at Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg., Inc. (TIEM), the manufacturer of the number one selling lift truck in the U.S., had achieved 200,000 consecutive hours worked without a recordable accident according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The 200,000 hours represents 1,248 work days over the past three years at the Columbus, IN-based manufacturing plant.