Common Causes Of Forklift Accidents In The Workplace

Safety should be one of the most important concerns for all companies operating forklifts. With manufacturing, logistics and warehouse industries growing every year, forklifts will not go away anytime soon.

Unfortunately, as with all heavy machinery, accidents do happen. Safe Work Australia has set regulations to make working conditions as safe as possible, but accidents still happen due to improper training, malfunctioning equipment or inattentive operation fatalities due to a vehicle collision. According to Safe Work Australia, 3,414 workers have died from 2003 to 2016 and 39% of worker deaths were due to vehicle collisions.

Although such incidents are impossible to predict, it is possible to prevent them with the right training and good vehicle maintenance. Below are some of the most common forklift accidents that you need to be aware of. Knowing them will decrease the chances of these accidents happening in your workplace.

Common Forklift Accidents To Avoid

1. A Poorly Trained Operator/Driver

A poorly trained forklift operator/driver may not know how to respond to a changing workplace. A set of inventories, obstacles, pedestrians and changes in the floor gradient can cause problems with an inexperienced driver. It greatly helps to have a comprehensive certification process in the driver’s training program.  A written exam, behavioral exam, eye test, reflex test and driving assessment should be made to ensure that the driver will be able to handle their job in all situations.

2. Faulty Equipment

A faulty machine and a lack of proper tools to repair it is another cause of accidents. Lack of parts, wrong forklift attachments and accessories also contributes to injuries. All accessories and attachments should be properly secured to prevent slipping or detaching. Any faulty parts should be fixed or replaced and the forklift maintained and inspected every day before and after operation.

3. Speeding

Forklifts are not designed for speed, they are designed to lift heavy objects from one point to another. Thus, an overconfident driver may irresponsibly assume that there will be no danger in driving faster than the recommended normal operating speed. Their reaction speed will not be sufficient to clear any obstacles within the workplace and will surely cause injuries or even death.

4. Tipping of a Pallet or Damaging Racking

At very high levels, picking up and setting down pallets can be very tricky. The harder it is for the operator to see, the higher the chance the pallets will get knocked off, the tip of the tynes will damage the product or damage the racking. To prevent this, the operator can reset the tynes to a level position or install a mast camera with an operator monitor to see what is happening on the high racks.

5. Toppling Over

An uneven surface or an uneven load that is too heavy can cause a forklift to topple over. Potholes, drains and steep slopes can also cause the vehicle to topple over so make sure to check the load and the surface to prevent the vehicle from toppling over.

6. Driving the Vehicle With An Elevated Load

Any load higher than the center of gravity will be unstable and unbalanced and will tend to pull down whatever it is attached to. This is very common with forklifts, thus regulations and common sense encourage drivers to carry loads, especially heavy ones, as near to the ground as possible, approximately 4 inches from the floor.

7. Insufficient Marking

Highly visible and sufficient floor marking helps to avoid accidents. Any clear markings and visible warning signs are a must for forklift operators, pedestrians and other warehouse staff. Highly visible markings are a must for the operators to follow.

8. Improper Turning

Turning a corner at high speeds can cause the lift to tilt to one side and then tumble over. Again, forklifts are not designed for speed. Drivers should know to approach the corner slowly and carefully before making a turn.

9. Collision with Pedestrians and Other Vehicles

Insufficient markings and warning signs and unaware pedestrians can pose a great danger to everyone. If there’s high traffic in the warehouse, visible markings should be posted and highly visible clothing must be worn at all times. The driver and pedestrians should always keep a safe distance from each other, especially in forklift or heavy equipment zones.

10. Loose Load

Any loose load can fall from the mast and tynes if it’s unbalanced or loosely packed. Depending on the weight of the load, this can have serious effects on the victim which can cause severe injury or even death. Make sure that the load is stable and secure before moving it to another location.

11. Giving Rides Using The Mast

This is irresponsible operation which happens in some cases. Under no circumstances should a worker stand or sit on the forklift masts. A person riding the mast could easily fall and be run over, leading to serious injury or death.

12. Poor Workplace Design

Narrow aisles in a warehouse are quite tricky to navigate and manoeuvre when operating a forklift or any other heavy equipment. Even if the isle is designed for easy manoeuvring, a small bit of clutter can lead to accidents if the driver tries to avoid these obstacles. Another problem that can occur due to poor design is a high volume of traffic in a warehouse that is not designed to sustain heavy traffic. Other issues can include different surface materials, uneven surfaces, ramps, heavy noises, poor lighting and poor cleaning can affect forklift operation and performance.

As a business, always enforce safety regulations in the workplace and as an employee and a forklift operator, always make it a responsibility to follow the safety guidelines implemented by the company. If you do not adhere to these safety guidelines, you should be held accountable. Be alert and be conscious of your working environment.