Forklifts are incredibly useful powered industrial vehicles that are used to lift and move material. Lifting with a two-pronged fork, a forklift can drive a short distance with a heavy load completely suspended. If your warehouse has pallet racks, you know that the pick up or drop off location of pallets can be elevated far beyond the height of the average employee. Forklifts are controlled entirely by the driver, therefor, human error is utterly possible and accidents can, and do happen. Quite often in fact. Forklift accidents are the second leading cause of warehouse accidents, so it is important to know what contributes to these mishaps and how we can prevent them.

Work Organization

Lack of training: It is important to ensure that all drivers are certified to operate the forklifts and can safely pick up, put down and stack loads.

Production factors: Many companies ask too much from their employees with demands that often exceed a safe balance between speed of work and production. Employees are motivated to work too quickly, bypassing standard safety checks to save time.

Lack of equipment: Missing the proper tools, attachments or accessories that go with a forklift can induce innovative thinking of the wrong kind, as employees conjure up workarounds to avoid a roadblock or simply accelerate a process.

Behavioral and Operational Factors

Improper operating: Even if your drivers are certified, careless behavior or horseplay can lead to travelling at high speeds, riding with an elevated load, or backing up incorrectly. Inappropriate acceleration, braking, turning and parking techniques can cause collisions and serious injuries.

Poor communication: It might not seem like much, but warning others that a forklift is use nearby is crucial. A siren or light can be useful or simply walking over before operating the vehicle and verbally warning coworkers can be done as well.

Workplace Design

Traffic: The higher the volume of traffic in a work area, the more prone a forklift is of colliding with another machine or person. Same goes for the traffic in the aisles regarding material. If material is not put away the aisles can be dangerously cluttered.

Maintaining Surfaces: The surfaces on which are driven on are important, especially on ramps, because slipping and sliding on slick surfaces while transporting heavy loads can lead to disaster.

Load Characteristics

Stacking: Improperly stacking, piling or wrapping material on a pallet can make for a wobbly load when picking. Ensure that the heavier material is at the bottom of the stack and lighter material on top.

Weight: A forklift can only counterbalance a certain amount of weight, and the higher it is loaded, the less it can withstand. Knowing the limitations of your machine will prevent tipping.

Pallet Rack Failure: Pallets can often be damaged for several reasons. The number one cause is damage from the forklifts as they often miss the pallet’s entry point and crack the wood. Combined with overloaded racks and altered configuration, pallet racks can collapse and dangerously drop material to their surroundings.

Your staff’s knowledge of the safety procedures in operating a forklift are extremely important in safeguarding your workplace. Accidents do happen and it’s essential to be careful, and be aware every time one of these forklifts are driven, as the little discrepancies in performance and equipment could cause horrible accidents. Stay safe and be prepared. Educate your staff about the dangers of driving a forklift to keep them on their toes.