Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Preventing Injuries & Deaths around Forklifts - part 1

NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) has a workplace guide titled:

"Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts"

This publication gives employers guidance and assists them in compliance with the OSHA regulations regarding forklifts. Over the next few posts, we will summarize the recommendations for forklift safety.

Reducing the risk of forklift incidents requires a safe work environment, a safe forklift, comprehensive worker training, safe work practices, and systematic traffic management.

NIOSH recommends that employers and workers comply with OSHA regulations and consensus standards, maintain equipment and take the following measures to prevent injury when operating or working near forklifts.

Worker Training

  • Make sure that workers do not operate a forklift unless they have been trained and licensed.
  • Develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive written safety program that includes worker training, operator licensure and a timetable for reviewing and revising the program. A comprehensive forklift safety training program is important for preventing injury and death. Operator training should address factors that affect the stability of a forklift—such as the weight and symmetry of the load, the speed at which the forklift is traveling, operating surface, tire pressure and driving behavior.
  • Inform operators of sit-down type forklifts that they can be crushed by the overhead guard or another part of the truck after jumping from the overturning forklift. The operator of a sit-down type forklift should stay with the truck if lateral or longitudinal tip over occurs. The operator should hold on firmly and lean away from the point of impact.
  • Train operators of stand-up type forklifts with rear-entry access to exit from the truck by stepping backward if a lateral tip over occurs.
  • Ensure that operator restraint systems (seat belts) are being used on sit-down type forklifts. Since 1992, forklift manufacturers have been required to equip new sit-down type forklifts with operator restraint systems. Many manufacturers of these forklifts offer restraint systems that can be retrofitted on older forklifts. Many of the fatalities resulting from overturns of sit-down type forklifts might have been prevented if the operator had been restrained. The overhead guard of the forklift is generally the part that crushes the operator's head or torso after he or she falls or jumps outside of the operator's compartment. The risk of being crushed by the overhead guard or another rigid part of the forklift is greatly reduced if the operator of a sit-down type forklift remains inside the operator's compartment. Because many forklifts are not equipped with a restraint system and operator compliance is less than 100% on forklifts equipped with a restraint system, operators of sit-down type forklifts should be instructed not to jump from the operator's compartment but to stay inside by leaning in the opposite direction of the overturn.
  • Train operators to handle asymmetrical loads when their work includes this activity.
In future posts we will continue to summarize the NIOSH recommendations for forklift safety.

Forklift safety training programs are available from:

National Safety Compliance - Forklift Safety Training
CoCoSafe - Forklift Safety Training
Forklift Safety Posters


  1. Has anyone ever heard of someone becoming unconscious from the gases generated during forklift battery charging?

  2. Industry owners should keep in mind that trained workers can reduce the risk of safety. So if they have untrained employees in their company they must make efforts to train them.