Ask any employee who earns their living in the warehousing, manufacturing or retail sector about the essential tools of their trade, and there’s a very good chance that they will list things like pallet jacks, back belts, utility knives and, of course, forklifts.
Indeed, it would be virtually impossible for any operation of appreciable size within one of these sectors to fill orders and manage inventory without these ubiquitous forked and four-wheeled machines. Despite this utility, however, it’s important to understand that forklifts present a very real risk of work injuries.
If you don’t believe it, consider that statistics show that the nation sees an average of 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries involving forklifts every year.
While this is disconcerting, the good news is that experts have identified a few easy steps that employees can take to help ensure that they remain safe around forklifts.
- Observe safe driving practices: Take care to drive slowly, reducing speed even further when negotiating turns. Furthermore, ensure that loads are transported only if stable and never exceed the recommended weight limit. Finally, ensure that headphones and other potentially distracting electronics are not used while operating the forklift, and utilize backup cameras.
- Maintain safe distances and ideal operating conditions: Ensure that forklifts are only driven in areas where there is little foot traffic, low volume levels, good lighting and no obstructions. In addition, workers on foot must remember to give the forklift operator a wide berth and never make physical contact with a moving load.
- Maintenance and training: Demand that employers conduct the necessary maintenance to ensure the forklift stays in safe operating condition and provide training at least twice a year to ensure all employees remain current on best practices.
Those who do suffer forklift-related injuries while on the job should understand that they do have rights and they do have options, including workers’ compensation benefits. To learn more, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.