Forklift Safety in the Workplace

Forklifts are widely used in many industries. Warehouses, distribution centers, production facilities, and construction sites use forklifts to complete numerous tasks primarily moving heavy and large products.

Since they are used so often (OSHA estimates there are 1.5 million lift operators in the United States) and are often used to move heavy objects, they are a constant danger to all workers on the job site.  The operators, bystanders, and pedestrians are all at risk of injury in an area with forklift traffic.

According to OSHA, there is an estimated 97,000 injuries (35,000 serious and 62,000 non-serious) involving forklifts that occur annually.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 96 U.S. workers were killed in incidents involving forklifts in 2015.  The most common types of forklift related fatalities are overturns and struck-by incidents.

To help reduce the risk of accidents, OSHA requires operators to receive the following forklift training: 1) Formal instruction (such as forklift training videos, discussions, lectures, written materials, etc.)  2) Practical training (demonstrations and practical exercises) 3) Workplace performance evaluations.  It is a violation of Federal law for anyone under 18 years of age to operate a forklift or for anyone over 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified to do so.

Pedestrians and bystanders working in the area of forklifts also need to be trained on being aware of forklift traffic and using caution to avoid being struck by a forklift or the materials it is transporting.

Common Causes of Forklift Workplace Injuries

  • Being struck or run over by a forklift
  • Forklift that overturns and crushes worker
  • A worker being stuck between the forklift and a surface
  • Materials falling while being raised or lowered by forklift
  • Forklift falling off an elevated area such as a loading dock
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