Forklift operators: did you know that you can be subject to retraining if you have an accident while operating your fork truck? In fact, you must be retrained if you have a “near miss,” or if someone observes you operating your truck in an unsafe manner.
A new Virginia worker safety publication stresses the need for improved training and safety habits, and for assuring that forklifts modified with attachments are also subject to safety regulations.
Forklifts may look simple to operate. But they can become dangerously unstable. There are about 1.5 million forklift operators in the U.S. alone, and the fork truck is used in all industries. Forklift accidents are the commonest source of deaths and injuries in the workplace.
Federal OSHA standards use several factors when requiring forklift training or retraining:
- The previous skill and knowledge of the operator.
- The current, visible, or “demonstrated” skill.
- The kind of forklift being used.
- Other workplace hazards.
Retraining is required at regular intervals, according to the OSHA standards.
There are some important guidelines for operating forklifts. First, light loads should not be carried far forward, at the tips of the forks. Second, steering that feels “light” is a sign of instability. Third, adding weight to the rear will not help stabilize the load. In fact, it will destabilize it, by putting the weight near the rear axle.
Employers should follow guidelines for attachments, which are often used to expand on the uses of a forklift. First, always get approval in writing from the manufacturer before modifying the truck. Second, make sure the plates, tags, or decals on the forklift show those modifications. The tags reflect a forklift’s operation and capacity, and include maintenance instructions.
Some of those attachments are boom extensions, rug rams, hoppers, drum rotators, drum carriers, drum grippers, and cylinder caddies. Most of them are used in the manufacturing industry.
No employer in their right mind thinks, “I hope one of my workers get seriously injured today.” No employee that is sane will think, “I would like to fall to my death at work today.” Workplace accidents occur so often, it’s almost common place. There are millions of injuries investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year. It is bad enough that people get hurt, and sometimes die from these accidents, but the expense to the workers is great as well. Taking time off work to heal from an injury is not always compensated. Medical bills and lawsuits can cost an injured employee hundreds to thousands of dollars, even with insurance. Work-related injuries in Virginia and the rest of the U.S. might happen more often than you think.
OSHA regulates work environment safety in Virginia, and other states. Virginia worker safety is so important to OSHA, and they do everything within their power to make sure health and safety laws are followed. OSHA provides a Workplace Safety Pack that includes information on how to stay safe at work. In the package, ergonomics, lifting safety, and information on slips, trips or falls are addressed.
Even with guidelines and procedures outlined, and all the reminders to stay safe, over 250 thousand workers fell on the job. The most recent statistics cover the year 2005. The countrywide statistics from 2005 report over 4.2 million work related accidents. More than 5,000 people died as a result of job-related accidents. (These figures do not include non-profit employees, government workers, officers, emergency medical personnel or firefighters.)
Accidents do happen, apparently too much in the workplace. Most people fell safe when they are at work, but that doesn’t mean that they always are. Every employee should follow guidelines, and do what they can to ensure their own safety, and the safety of those that they work with. If everyone does their part, all work environments can cut down on the number of accidents.