By Keith Trumbull, VP of Material Handling Equipment, Element Fleet Management
Did you know that, on average, there are 100 fatalities and between 80,000 and 90,000 injuries per year resulting from the unsafe operation of forklifts? Training plays a critical role in accident prevention and the safety of everyone involved in material handling equipment management. One of the more common pieces of material handling equipment that a manager will oversee is a forklift. Preventing forklift accidents saves lives, reduces costs and maximizes productivity.
In order to help monitor the use of machines and minimize the dangers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers forklifts under the “Powered Industrial Truck” regulation. Last year alone, federal and state OSHA inspectors conducted 83,380 workplace inspections that resulted in over 2,000 citations for serious forklift violations. These violations typically carry a fine ranging from $500 to $7,000 each – a fee no company or operator wants to pay. However, in the retail and transportation/warehousing sectors, forklifts are the second most frequently cited area.
So how can you steer clear of these violations therefore avoiding fines and injuries to employees operating or working in a facility with forklifts? The answer is simple – proper training. At the Center for Transportation Safety (CTS), an Element Financial Corporation company, instructors offer driver training solutions. According to Doug Smith, a safety and health specialist and contract instructor/trainer at CTS, all accidents are preventable. “Through proper equipment selection, thorough training and operator testing, regular operator evaluations and retraining and ongoing equipment maintenance, the elimination of most, if not all, forklift accidents and injuries related to their operation can be achieved,” said Smith.
In 2014, the top three areas of “serious” violations involved deficiencies in operator training. According to the federal OSHA regulations, operator training should consist of both classroom and hands-on training, and include:
- General principles of operation and stability
- Truck-specific topics including inspection, fueling or battery charging, and any other routine tasks that the operator will perform
- Operating limitations for the specific unit(s) to be operated.
- Workplace-related topics including surface conditions, composition of loads, load manipulation, stacking, pedestrian traffic patterns, etc.
- Special situations such as narrow aisles, restricted areas, ramps, or any other hazards unique to the operations
- Any personal protection equipment requirements such as fall protection
- Emergency procedures and incident documentation requirements
Refresher training should be conducted every three years — or more frequently if an operator fails to follow established operating guidelines, is involved in a property damage incident or an accident resulting in injury, or otherwise demonstrates a lack of proper skills in operation of the equipment. If a new piece of equipment is introduced into the workplace, additional training is needed.
If your organization doesn’t have a protocol for training in place, act now to get one in place before National Safety Month begins in June.
Each month Fleet Management Weekly features material handling equipment guidance from Keith Trumbull, vice president of material handling equipment at Element Fleet Management.