June 12th is National Forklift Safety Day. We hope you are conducting OSHA mandated forklift safety training to keep your operators safe. But is that all you’re doing? Are you just doing one leg of the “Safety Triangle?”
What is the “Safety Triangle” of forklift training? On the first side of the triangle, under OSHA Regulation 1910.178(L), employers have to train our forklift operators. The other 2 sides needed to complete the triangle are both Pedestrian and Supervisory Training. When all 3 sides are met, it can go a long way to keeping a safe and active operating facility.
Let’s start with pedestrian safety training. Accidents involving workplace pedestrians and material handling equipment occur all the time. One-third of all forklift accidents involve a pedestrian getting struck or run over by a forklift.
Why? Pedestrians can be complacent. They have been told most of their lives that as a pedestrian they have the “right-of- way.” So, ask yourself this question, while having the “right-of-way” and facing down a 10,000lb forklift moving on average of about 8mph that does not stop on a dime, how’s that “right of way” working for you?
Many pedestrians do not treat the aisles of their workplace as they would the roadways that they cross when walking down a street. For the most part, people will cross at assigned crossing areas and look before crossing the roadways because they were conditioned to do it since they were children. Remember mom constantly saying, “Look before you cross the road”. But in a warehouse setting, pedestrians will walk out of doorways, from behind product, machinery, or other blind spots, and cross the aisles without even looking for forklifts.
Now we have a new distraction and it’s becoming a real problem, cell phones in the work environment! As pedestrians we are glued to them. Emails from our bosses need immediate responses. Others live by Facebook or Instagram and when you are distracted, you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. When a forklift and a pedestrian have an accident, it’s not just the fault of the operator, its 50-50 blame! Safety is a SHARED responsibility between forklift operators and the pedestrians who share the same aisles.
Now, for the last side of the triangle, lets include supervisor training. We put operators through training but not the supervisors. But they need to understand completely what the operator has learned in their safety training course and to make sure it is being followed.
They direct operators to use the forklifts to move product. They should know who has and hasn’t received training so no untrained person is allowed to operate the truck.
Sadly, supervisors at times feel forced to put production first and safety second, it’s a numbers game and we all know it. They will at times tell the operator not to, “listen to the person who did the forklift safety training, you listen to me. We will never get anything done around here if you did it the way they told you to do it.”.
Supervisors should at least sit through the classroom portion of a training course so they know what’s safe operation and what isn’t. Are operators breaking known safety rules just to “get the job done?” They shouldn’t be and they shouldn’t feel forced to do so
As a supervisor, you have a legal responsibility to make sure your people are working safely and following all company policies or it could land you in a lawsuit.
As an owner of a business you should make sure your supervisors are following all your safety rules. If not, well the hammer falls on your head and the fines are higher since 2016. $12,471.00 for a serious violation (i.e. failure to conduct training.) Or a willful violation, $124,709.00 (i.e. not enforcing company safety rules and an accident or death occurs). Your obligation under OSHA’s General Duty Clause is to provide a safe workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
While forklift safety training is mandated by OSHA, pedestrian and supervisor training is not. But this type of training can be done in a very short period of time and it is much better to be proactive than reactive. With a little extra training you can help to complete the “Safety Triangle” and cut down on accidents in your work area.
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If you have a question on this or any topic related to safety with your forklift, give our resident expert, Dave Bennet, a call or fill out the request form.