Forklift truck safety: simple steps to change behaviour
By Phil Chambers BSc, CMIOSH Strategic Safety Systems
Too often, one reads of accidents where a forklift truck is involved. Typically, these result in major injury or death.
The readers of SHP Online should already be aware that the key steps to preventing forklift truck accidents are:
- Pedestrians and vehicles should be kept separate, so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Vehicles must be properly maintained and driven only by trained and authorised drivers.
- Areas where visibility is poor, say because of curtains in doorways, should be improved.
- People must be well clear of all lifting and lowering activities.
So if we already know this, how do we apply this practically to maintain and improve our workplace?
A good example of how to control walkways in forklift traffic areas
The best form of separation of vehicles and pedestrians is a physical barrier, rather than painted floor markings. But the barrier must end at some point. The photograph below shows an excellent example of how this was tackled properly with one company.
Instead of the barrier ending with direct access to the vehicle route, there is a gate that opens inwards. This forces a pedestrian to stop. In addition, there is signage on both the gate and the floor. After a while, people will not notice signs, but the action of opening the gate remains.
Where the doorway is in an opaque wall, ideally there should be a barrier on the other side to make you change direction before you cross a vehicle route. Where this is impractical, then the door should open inwards. If this door is a fire exit, then this is contrary to good fire escape practice, but one could easily argue that this is still preferable.
Whilst we can train forklift truck drivers, pedestrians are not so easy to train. In many cases, people fail to realise just how poor the visibility is from a forklift truck, or how critical it is to gain eye contact with the driver.
You might like to consider producing your own posters to help get across the message of forklift truck safety. These days digital photographs make it easy to include pictures of your own workplace, and such posters are far more effective than those stating general issues such as “Fingers don’t grow on trees”. Here are a few suggestions:
- Show the view from the driver’s position, taken in a recognisable position in your workplace. You might like to have two pictures, one where a person is hidden by the mast or load, and another one where the person can be seen.
- Show the view looking into the driver’s eyes. Again, use a recognisable position and a recognisable driver, so people can associate it with their own workplace. Add text such as “Always make eye contact with the driver so he knows where you are.”
- Show a lifting/lowering operation with someone standing within range. Add text such as “If it falls, the load accelerates at 9.8 m/s2. You can’t accelerate at this rate to get out of the way, so keep clear instead.”
This is a very short overview of a few steps to improve forklift truck safety. It is not intended to be comprehensive and there is an entire conference on this later this month. But implementing these steps is a start in improving safety in this area.
With employees who drive for business more likely to be killed at work than deep sea divers or coal miners, driver safety is a vital business consideration.
Download this eBook from Driving for Better Business and SHP to cover:
- The danger of the roads;
- Comparing road safety in the UK to the rest of Europe;
- Decreasing risk: Avoiding accidents;
- Road safety best practice;
- What is fleet risk?
- Managing work-related road safety.