Working Safely Around Forklifts

Forklift vehicles are not like automobiles; they’re about twice as heavy, due to the counterbalance weight needed to carry large loads. Because forklifts are so heavy, when a pedestrian worker gets injured by a forklift vehicle, the injury is often very serious and sometimes fatal. To avoid becoming a victim of a forklift accident, be constantly aware of the forklift activities around you both in your immediate work area and in other areas of the workplace you may need to go.

Forklifts don’t maneuver like automobiles. Forklifts can turn in a very small radius. They’re rear-wheel driven, so their rear end swings out wider than an automobile’s pathway. So, always give a forklift PLENTY of room to maneuver. Don’t stand near a forklift when it begins to move. Their extra weight means a forklift can’t stop as fast as an auto. Don’t try to squeeze by an operating forklift; their unexpected movements can crush you between the vehicle and a stationary object.

Forklifts have limited visibility. The forks and lifting mechanism block the line of sight for the driver. If there’s a load on the lift, visibility is even more limited. So, it’s up to YOU, the pedestrian, to watch for and avoid forklifts. Don’t rely on the forklift driver to see you. If you MUST move around near an active forklift, maintain eye contact with the driver at all times. And, always provide enough space for the forklift to move safely out of your way.

Never stand near or under loaded forklift tines/forks. Forklifts can drop their load or knock over a stack of materials, causing a possible caught/crush injury. Always wait until a forklift is idle and the parking brake is ON, before entering an active forklift working zone. Evaluate work areas around you to ensure that forklift activities can’t impact you. For example, a forklift in one aisle can push a product off a shelf from that side of the aisle into the adjacent aisle you may be in and crush you.

Listen carefully and look both ways before you step out from an aisle, around a corner, or across a pathway. Avoid crossing in front of a moving forklift and don’t try to “beat” one to a crossing. Install mirrors in blind entry areas to help pedestrians and forklift drivers keep track of each other. Paint wide, safe pathways on work area floors to separate pedestrians from forklift travels zones. Adequate lighting can also ensure that drivers and pedestrians see each other.

Finally, stay alert and work at a safe pace; distracted or hurrying workers and quick paced forklift driving can lead to an accident or injury. Get periodic training on forklift safety to remember safe work practices and the consequences if you don’t follow them. If there are forklifts present where you work, think about your surroundings and how you can keep yourself safe from a forklift injury.

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