Forklift Safety and Training
Travis Rhoden, Senior Editor
April 15, 2022
Forklift safety has seen a renewed focus recently with the observance of National Forklift Safety Day, a revised ANSI lift truck industry standard, and a regulatory agenda item to revise the OSHA standard. The increased focus is with good reason: powered industrial trucks (PIT) continue to be in heavy use throughout industry, and continue to be a source of severe injuries to workers.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, there are nearly 629,2701 forklift and similar PIT operators in the current workforce. From 2011 to 20152 there were an average of 75 PIT-related fatalities per year, and over 54,000 injuries that involved cases with days away from work.
Further, from Jan. 1, 2015, through May 31, 20203, employers made over 3,000 serious injury reports to Federal OSHA about cases where a forklift or other PIT was involved in a worker amputation, hospitalization, loss of eye, or fatality incident.
Even when you have safely designed equipment, if operators don’t know how to operate it safely, injuries will occur. That’s why OSHA requires all PIT operators to undergo stringent initial training, evaluation, and certification, with a re-evaluation every three years. Further, when operators are involved in an incident or near-miss, or you change the equipment or the workplace, you must provide refresher training.
Training operators in safe operation and hazard recognition is obviously a key factor to a safe PIT program. But, because of the numerous types of trucks and working conditions, it is not possible to identify all the hazards that are encountered in all industrial truck operations. Accordingly, developing a single “generic” training program that covers in detail all hazards for all powered industrial trucks and all workplaces is not possible.
Four major areas of concern need to be addressed in an effective powered industrial truck training program:
1. the general hazards that apply to the operation of all or most powered industrial trucks;
2. the hazards associated with the operation of particular types of trucks;
3. the hazards of workplaces generally; and
4. the hazards of the particular workplace where the vehicle operates.
OSHA’s requirements are therefore performance-oriented to permit employers to tailor a training program to the characteristics of their workplaces and the particular types of powered industrial trucks operated. Some specific training provisions, however, must be in place.
PIT operators must receive 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.
To keep workers, pedestrians, and others safe, as well as protect property and product, employers must make forklift safety a top priority!
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