Most people understand the safety hazards relating to forklift accidents, but what about the everyday health risks for forklift operators? Neck, back, and knee issues can occur from sitting long periods of time and twisting to see behind you or around a load. Drivers can experience whiplash and pain from sudden stops, poor suspension, and frequent bumps. The inherent repetitiveness of an 8-hour shift can also make some forklift operators experience fatigue.
So, what should you do to avoid the health risks of forklift operation?
One of the health risks of forklift operation is the muscle and joint pain that is felt after you contort yourself in unnatural ways. Anytime you overstretch to reach a pedal that is situated too low or a lever is too far from the seat, you put a strain on your body. As you repeat these motions over and over again, you could develop a musculoskeletal disorder like tendonitis, chronic muscle strain or nerve pinches. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 30% of all worker’s compensation claims stem from these types of musculoskeletal disorders.
Luckily, new forklifts models have put a greater emphasis on ergonomics. Newer trucks have less vibration and adjustable seats, so every control is easily accessible. Soft-touch hand grips, adjustable steering columns, and swiveling seats help keep muscle strain to the minimum. Mechanical improvements in suspensions, breaks, and tire treads enables you -- and your back and neck -- to experience less abrasive bumps and jolts over an 8-hour shift.
Even if you operate an older truck without the modern conveniences built in, you can still improve your ergonomics by retrofitting your Indiana forklift with items like a back-up handle, seat-belt extenders, or a blind-spot mirror. Stretching before and during shifts can also help keep muscles and joints limber. Even little habits, like remembering to remove your wallet from your back pocket, can reduce the risk of experiencing back and neck pain.
Getting a full 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night may seem trivial, but when you are tired, you may not be able to adequately operate a forklift. Tiredness has been shown to decrease reaction time and increase indecisiveness. You might even start to feel phantom aches and pains, forcing you to needlessly overcompensate. The CDC has warned that almost 40% of American don’t get a full night’s sleep. It’s no surprise that routinely burning the midnight oil might come with some pretty high consequences.
Unfortunately, driving a forklift can be repetitive, and fatigue may come on silently. It is fairly easy to unintentionally drift off, and then jolt back awake when you “come to.” Even if you don't have an accident from dozing, this motion can make you swerve the truck, causing strain on your neck or back. You may want to solve your tiredness with coffee or stimulants; but, unfortunately, the only cure to sleep deprivation is sleep.
According to OSHA, most forklift accidents can be avoided with proper training. And while you should have been properly trained before you even operated a forklift, bad habits can still emerge over time. New machines may handle differently or come with improved features, which you may need to be trained on. The easiest way to make sure training is updated is to pre-schedule it on a periodic basis, and when you buy a new make and model.
Tynan can help your Indiana operation become safer and more efficient. Our experts can walk you through how new forklift models have integrated new ergonomic features and how you can structure an operator training schedule that works for your drivers. Just call us at (317) 597-4003 today.
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