8 forklift hazards managers should look out for to prevent costly accidents
12th April 2021
A top priority for anyone overseeing forklift operations must be to ensure that everyone is working safely. But what does this look like day-to-day? It’s vital that managers and supervisors responsible for forklift safety can recognise good and bad practice and rectify any problems before they lead to an accident. Here are some of the most common examples of dangerous practice to watch out for, and how to prevent them.
1. Insufficient observations
Forklift operators should always complete all-round observations before they move their truck or raise/lower their load. This allows them to spot any debris, obstructions, or, crucially, pedestrians in the vicinity. Managers must ensure that these all-round observations are carried out properly, every time, (i.e. operators must really look, not just turn their heads).
2. Unsafe load transportation
Unfortunately, some operators soon deviate from best practice learned during forklift training and allow bad habits to creep in. Insecure loads, uneven weight distribution and overloading are all examples of how so-called ‘shortcuts’ can lead to lost loads and tip overs, with serious consequences. Managers should also ensure that operators complete one manoeuvre at a time while carrying a load (i.e. turn then lift, not turn and lift). Monitoring is key to spotting and rectifying unsafe practice before it leads to an accident. Check out our guidance for reducing the risk of tip overs here.
3. Inadequate pedestrian segregation
Pedestrians and forklifts must always remain a safe distance apart, especially in areas where they cannot be physically separated. Whether colleagues or visiting drivers, pedestrians should not be permitted to help with loading/unloading and should never try and steady a load, as they will put themselves at risk of trapping injuries or being hit by the truck or the load, should it fall.
Putting robust, reinforced Safe Systems of Work in place, will help to maintain safe working distances. Communicate these systems to everyone who may need to access an area where forklifts operate, however rarely this may be. This includes staff, contractors, visitors and delivery drivers.
4. Poor visibility when operating a truck
High loads can obscure an operator’s view of their surroundings, increasing the risk of them colliding with other vehicles, pedestrians or racking. Make sure that operators are travelling with a clear view, so that they can stay alert to any surrounding risks. If their view is obscured by the load and they cannot travel in reverse, then they should use a banksman to guide them.
5. Not wearing seatbelts
The HSE is clear in its guidance: “Where restraining systems are fitted they should be used.” Forklift operators may prefer to not wear seatbelts but the fact is they significantly reduce the consequences of an accident. If the truck was to become unstable and tip over, a seatbelt will stop the operator from being thrown from the cab, or trying to escape: which can lead to them being trapped under the truck. Adding seatbelts to company policies makes their use mandatory on site and managers should reinforce this through regular monitoring, refresher training, on-site signage and the like. More on seatbelt use here.
6. Misusing equipment or using the wrong equipment
Managers should look out for cases where operators are using unsuitable equipment, for example, lifting colleagues using makeshift cages, rather than purpose-built work platform attachments or MEWPs. Also dangerous is using the right equipment but in ways it was not designed to be used, i.e. using lift trucks to push loads, rather than lift them. Ensure that operators have access to the correct equipment for the task and are properly trained to use it, to protect themselves and their colleagues.
Tight deadlines and high demand can influence some operators to compromise on safety in an attempt to save time. But rushing comes at a high cost when it increases the risk of tip overs or collisions. Check that operators are aware of speed limits on site and that they understand the need to stick to them at all times, regardless of any operational pressures.
8. Dismounting incorrectly
Lift truck operators can become complacent during mounting/dismounting, simply due to the frequency that this is done every day, and may be tempted to jump from the cab. But this increases the risk of slips and falls, and also adds additional distance between them and their cab, potentially putting them into the path of another vehicle. Take a look at the 3 points of contact rule for the safest way to enter/exit a lift truck.
Equip managers with the right skills
These common hazards are just a few examples of risks which managers must target to help protect your team and your business. By regularly monitoring operations and making time for proper supervision, those overseeing forklift use can guard against unsafe practice, proactively rectifying any bad habits day-to-day.
If your managers and supervisors need additional guidance, our Managing Forklift Operations e-learning course provides the skills and knowledge to identify bad practice, and the confidence to stop it before it becomes the norm. What’s more, the e-learning format provides the flexibility to learn where and when they choose, and at their own pace.