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Forklift Safety: Material Handling Hazards in the Workplace
Even with good training, how safe can a workplace be if serious material handling hazards are present and not addressed?

By David Hoover, President, Forklift Training Systems
Date Posted: 9/1/2005

Prior to conducting all on-site forklift training classes, our company conducts a site inspection, which looks at the customer’s forklifts, application, loads, and many other factors.

We also make general observations and recommendations, as well as asking some tough questions, such as, ‘Do your people really wear their seatbelts and chock trailer wheels?’ In many cases we hear, ‘No, they don’t do those things very often,’ or ‘We don’t even have seatbelts and chocks.’

This brings up an interesting issue. Even with good training, how safe can a workplace be if serious material handling hazards are present and not addressed?

In the U.S., OSHA would like to see workplace hazards eliminated through engineering means if possible. This is possible in many cases, such as reworking a steep ramp into a less dangerous grade and providing better traction.

In other cases, hazards perhaps cannot be totally eliminated, but they can be identified and dealt with through training and recognition. An example of this approach might be adding warning signs, convex mirrors or other warning devices into areas where forklifts and people share space — since in many cases it may be impossible to keep them completely separate.

One recommendation for end users and suppliers of training is to identify and correct material handling hazards first, and then conduct training to reinforce the changes. Doing training without first correcting the hazards sends a conflicting message to employees. It says in effect, ‘We don’t want you to do it this way, but for now that is the best we can do.’

Here are examples of some common material handling hazards:

• Poor floor or lot conditions

• Loads beyond the rated capacity of the forklifts

• Missing or non-functioning safety devices, such as horns, seatbelts, alarms and strobes

• Poorly stacked or stored loads and structurally damaged storage racks

• Damaged or broken pallets

• Lack of proper pre-shift checks and preventative maintenance

• Lack of enforcement for any type of safety issues

Correcting hazards is like curing a disease versus providing minor first aid. Even though the first aid may make you feel better for a while, the disease will keep reappearing without taking the steps to cure it for good.

(David Hoover is president of Forklift Training Systems. For more information on this or other topics related to
forklift training, safety or products,
contact David at (740) 763-4978, e-mail dhoover@forklifttrainingsystem.com, or visit the Forklift Training Web site at www.forklifttrainingsystem.com.)

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