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Forklift Safety: Pedestrians Need Training, Too
Pedestrians are involved in up to 40% of all forklift accidents, many of which involve very serious or even fatal injuries.

By David Hoover
Date Posted: 9/1/2006

    Companies across the world spend millions of dollars to train their forklift operators and the mechanics who service them, but how many train the people who work around forklifts?

    Only a small number of companies do any ‘pedestrian training’ related to forklift safety, and the majority of these do it as part of the facility orientation or include it in a brief, generic video on plant safety — neither of which is very effective.

    Pedestrians are involved in up to 40% of all forklift accidents, many of which involve very serious or even fatal injuries.

    I have worked with several companies — after the fact — where forklift operators have run over pedestrians, injuring and disabling or even killing co-workers. In one case a woman who was an avid athlete tried to slide by a forklift that was working in a narrow aisle. She knew the forklift was in use, but she was in a hurry, and she thought she could get by before it backed up. She was not as quick as she thought. She was injured and lost one leg above the knee and nearly died.

    It was a senseless and tragic accident. It did not have to turn out that way!

    What can be done?

    1) Educate your forklift operators to watch for and yield to the pedestrians.

    2) Tell employees to look for and actively avoid contact with forklifts; they may have the right-of-way, but they could end up being ‘dead right.’

    3) Provide an orientation for all employees who work near and around forklifts, training them how to work safely around them. Good general videos, site-specific pictures and custom video shot on location work well together to train workers in this aspect of plant safety. Customization to your location will drive home the point that there are risks on your own plant floor.

    4) Ask both forklift operators and other workers for suggestions to improve safety around forklifts. Whether it is putting up a barrier, installing a mirror or redirecting traffic flow, it is easier and far less costly to implement these measures before an accident.

    5) Keep workers away from forklifts. Fence them away, provide spotters or take other steps. This is one of your largest liabilities: if a forklift operator hurts another employee, you could face a potentially costly lawsuit.

    Technology also continues to improve. In fact, the newest technology alerts forklift operators and pedestrians to each other’s presence and tells them the direction of the danger! When a worker enters a plant from an office, this warning system immediately notifies him if a forklift is operating in the area and from what direction it is approaching. It also will alert a forklift operator of another forklift that is nearby.

    If you want to beef up your pedestrian training or learn more about the latest forklift safety technologies, contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

     (David Hoover is president of Forklift Training Systems.  For more information, contact David at (740) 763-4978 or 
e-mail dhoover@forklifttrainingsystem.com. David welcomes questions.)

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