How to protect those most at risk of a forklift accident

19th October 2021

Every year 1300 people are involved in forklift-related accidents. But it is not lift truck operators who are most at risk — it’s everyone around them.

A recent RIDDOR report into forklift truck accidents revealed 43 percent of incidents involved impacts with a third person. The unfortunate truth is that these types of incidents can almost always be avoided.

Here, we take a closer look at the simple, cost-effective steps you can take to reduce accident risk, meet your legal health and safety obligations, and look after every member of staff.

1. Segregation

Forklifts and pedestrians should be physically separated, wherever reasonably practicable. Using physical segregation measures, such as barriers, designated zones or separate traffic routes to keep them apart, will significantly reduce risk.

Earlier this year, a company was fined £600,000 after an employee suffered life-changing juries from being struck by a forklift. The HSE’s investigation found that the company failed to implement traffic management arrangements, including vehicle segregation.

2. Assess every shared access point

When identifying places where pedestrians' and forklifts' paths may cross, be sure to consider all areas, including pedestrian access and egress points, the sides and ends of aisles, where visibility is reduced, and battery charging areas, where forklifts may frequently enter and exit amongst others dismounting and charging their trucks.

3. Develop SSOW

Where total separation is not feasible and staff are required to perform tasks in a shared area, there must be other control measures in place to keep them apart.

Safe Systems of Work (SSOW) based on risk assessments of specific tasks will ensure that all parties understand how to carry out their duties safely, while maintaining suitable distances between forklift trucks and pedestrians.

Safe Systems of Work designed to keep pedestrians safe may include measures such as:

  • Floor demarcation – such as pedestrian walkways and crossings
  • Adequate lighting/blind corner mirrors – to maximise visibility
  • Audible warnings and beacons – fitted to trucks to raise awareness of their presence
  • Time rotation — try to schedule shifts so that forklift and pedestrian tasks are not being carried out simultaneously in the same area
  • Personal Protective Equipment – all staff should be wearing their PPE to ensure they are as visible as possible
  • Clear signage — instructions for drivers and pedestrians, displayed clearly in all relevant languages
  • Forklift shutdown procedure if pedestrians approach too closely – such as our step-by-step show your hand

Crucially, once created, SSOW must be shared with anyone who may be affected by them, including anyone who may need to pass through operating areas, however infrequently this may be.

4. Equip managers with the skills to monitor effectively

It is crucial that managers understand the importance of monitoring operations to ensure that SSOW are followed day to day and that bad practice is rectified. There is specialist training available for those who oversee forklift operations, designed to ensure that managers and supervisors know how to meet their responsibilities for safety, and why this is so important.

Now available in a variety of formats, our Managing Forklift Operations’ course can be delivered as a one-day classroom-based course, led by a specialist instructor, a convenient e-learning version where delegates can learn wherever and whenever they choose, or via video conferencing, offering the benefits of facilitated training via an online video platform.

By developing a properly trained workforce that understands the risks, and a sustained safety culture that includes everyone, you can support all those who work around forklifts on site and create a safer workplace for all. 

Contact us to discuss training requirements for your workforce today.


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