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Operator Training is Essential for Forklift Safety

Nearly 100 workers are fatally injured in forklift-related accidents each year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 100,000 are injured, per OSHA estimates. Many of the incidents occur when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks; when lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; when workers are struck by a lift truck; or when workers they fall while on elevated pallets and tines. Some hazards are specific to the types of trucks being used. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. In other cases, the environment itself poses challenges. One example: retail establishments often have difficulty maintaining pedestrian safety.

How to Reduce Hazards

Limiting the risk posed by powered industrial trucks to operators and people who work and move about near the vehicles depends largely on the type of truck operated and the worksite where it is being used. OSHA emphasizes training, followed by an evaluation to determine if the training was successful. Protecting workers largely depends on the type of truck operated and the worksite where it is being used. Per 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1), employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely. Training must consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator’s performance in the workplace. Other provisions of the regulation:

All operator training and evaluation shall be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence.

Training program content. Among the topics that must be covered in training for powered industrial truck operators:

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate
  • Differences between the truck and the automobile
  • Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work
  • Engine or motor operation
  • Steering and maneuvering
  • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading)
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations
  • Vehicle capacity

Click here for more information about 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1).

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