Safety is hugely important when using a forklift truck in a busy industrial environment, as unfortunately there are some common hazards associated with them. The health of the forklift operators and anyone who works near them is also equally as important. Whether operating a counterbalance truck, a reach forklift truck or any other type of forklift, injuries can occur.
Operator injuries especially are mainly caused by long periods of sitting and twisting the body into awkward positions. If the forklift has poor suspension then operators can develop problems over-time, such as lower back pain, and repetitive strain injuries. There are many other common forklift related injuries, and we’re going to look at how they occur and how to prevent them…
Crush injuries from tipping
A reach forklift, a counterbalance forklift, or any other type of forklift truck is always at risk of tipping over. When a truck lifts a load that is too heavy, or something is loaded onto the forklift improperly, this type of accident can occur. When a tip over happens, both the operator and any pedestrians nearby are at serious risk of injury. The operator can end up being crushed as they attempt to jump from the falling forklift, and pedestrians could be crushed by the load or the truck itself as well.
Instead of attempting to jump to safety, operators should instead hold onto the steering wheel of the forklift and brace themselves for impact with their feet. They should also lean their bodies away from the ground as the truck tips. Pedestrians can be easily obscured from view as the forklift tips over so it’s important that operators inform, to the best of their ability in the moment, what’s happening to anyone nearby.
Getting injured after falling from the forklift
Workers hitching a ride on forklifts is unfortunately all too prevalent in an industrial workplace, and if the forklift has a heavy load then these people are likely to fall and seriously injure themselves. It goes without saying that non-operators should never ride a forklift, no matter how sturdy it may appear to be.
Falling from a forklift can lead to broken bones, and in some cases fatal injuries. It’s important to ensure that any pedestrians always keep their distance from a moving forklift. Also, if any load appears unbalanced, it’s vital that this is adjusted before it’s carried by the forklift. Loads need to be double-checked at all times to make sure they are safely balanced.
As mentioned it’s not just the operators themselves who are at risk of injury from forklifts. Any pedestrians can suffer serious damage if they are hit by a moving forklift truck. One of the main causes of accidents involving pedestrians is poor visibility, especially when the truck is carrying a particularly large load.
When the operator has difficulty seeing where they’re driving, hitting people and other obstructions is inevitable. Forklift operators should always avoid carrying large loads that obstruct their vision. Loads should be raised or lowered in order to keep a clear line of sight. The work area around the forklift should also be kept clear of any debris or other potential obstacles.
Injuries to operators through forklift usage
Even when no accidents occur, forklift operators can still suffer injuries over time. Sitting in awkward positions for long periods daily in the forklift, with poor posture can lead to persistent neck and lower back pains. Coming to abrupt stops frequently can also cause whiplash Injuries, with operators suffering from dizziness and headaches as a result.
Constant repetitive movements can lead to various repetitive strain injuries, which eventually turn into chronic pains, leaving operators unable to work because of seriously reduced movement.
Preventative measures include:
- Carrying out exercise techniques regularly, such as stretching of the hands, shoulders and neck before and after a work shift.
- Refraining from driving with a bulky object in the back pocket, as this will effect sitting posture.
- Adjusting the seat and tilting the backrest backwards slightly, so that the feet can better reach the pedals, and posture is improved.