Common Forklift Accidents & How To Avoid Them

Forklift Operator Safety Yale Equipment

Industrial accidents involving heavy machinery such as forklifts are all too common. Despite OSHA guidelines, advancing lift truck technology, and more effective education and training, mishaps still occur in warehouses, shipping yards and workplaces all over Indiana.

Because these accidents can result in serious injuries and heavy financial loss, it’s imperative to know what causes these accidents, and how to avoid them. Here’s what you can do to prevent forklift accidents from occurring in your workplace.

What Are The Most Common Types of Forklift Accidents?

Accidents involving forklifts or other similar machinery can usually be broken down into a few categories: collisions, toppling, drops & falls, and racking accidents. Let’s look at these categories, and what you and your employees can do to prevent future forklift accidents.

Forklift Collisions

Collisions are probably the easiest type of forklift accident to imagine. A forklift colliding with a pedestrian, wall or another piece of machinery can result in serious damage and injury, and some of the worst OSHA horror stories involve forklift collisions.

There is good news, however–almost 100% of collisions are completely avoidable when using proper safety practices. These practices aren’t just the responsibility of the forklift operator, though - anyone working in proximity to forklifts or similar machinery should follow these guidelines to ensure a safe work space.

How to prevent forklift collisions:

  • Make sure there is separation between forklift traffic and pedestrian traffic in the workplace.
  • Limit the speed at which your forklifts travel, especially when carrying loads. OSHA recommends indoor forklifts travel no faster than 5 miles per hour at any time.
  • Make sure the forklift operator and nearby pedestrians are aware of each other. Employees working near a forklift in action should get the operator’s attention to make sure they’re aware of nearby foot traffic. Operators should always stop near intersections and blind corners and sound the forklift horn to prevent any blindsiding.
  • Operators should test the forklift’s brakes at the beginning of any shift, and after picking up loads. This will let you know how much space you need to come to a stop, as well as clue you in as to the condition of your brakes in case they’re in need of maintenance.

Forklift Toppling & Drops

The entire purpose of forklifts is to lift and move heavy loads, which makes weight distribution a vital part of their design. While they’re designed to stay upright and distribute weight evenly, unexpected forces, uneven terrain and improper load weights can result in the entire lift toppling over.

Similar to toppling over, drops and falls occur when weight distribution is thrown off, resulting in cargo or an operator coming off the lift.

How to prevent forklift toppling & falls:

  • Ensure that the terrain on which the forklift is operating is as level as possible. Rough, rocky outdoor terrain or potholes in asphalt can cause jolts that make forklifts topple.
  • When carrying loads across a distance, lower the lift as close to the ground as possible. OSHA recommends a height of around 4 inches off the ground for moving loads.
  • Make sure that heavy loads are evenly mounted on the bed of the forklift.
  • Don’t overload your forklift. Always stay under the maximum recommended weight for cargo.
  • Operators should always utilize safety straps and harnesses when using specialty forklifts such as stand-up reach lifts.

Forklift Racking Accidents

Picking and racking with a forklift can require a lot of precision. Rack a load too deep into the shelving, and you can damage a pallet or your tines. Push too far when racking and you can cause an entire shelf to collapse on the opposite side.

How to prevent forklift racking accidents:

  • Make sure all forklift operators are well-trained for your workplace’s specific lift applications. Any time you introduce new shelving or goods to be picked and racked, give forklift operators time to familiarize themselves with any changes.
  • Make sure the forklifts your workplace uses are appropriate to the environment. Narrow shelving should only be racked with narrow-aisle forklifts, and so on.
  • Make sure forklift zones in are properly marked, so operators can consistently hit their targets.

Learn More About Safe Forklift Practices

If you want to learn more about safe forklift operations, the team at Tynan Equipment is here to help. Call 317-597-4003 today to talk to our team about forklift operator training, fleet management and more to make your workplace safer and more efficient.

Related Articles