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Forklift Safety -- Be Safe: Buckle Up!
OSHA does not mention seatbelts in its forklift standard, but it does note that operators should be trained regarding the contents of the forklift operatorís manual. These manuals now almost always contain instructions regarding seatbelt use.

By David Hoover
Date Posted: 3/1/2007

†† When I was a boy in the 1970s, I never worried much about seatbelts or what might happen if I didnít wear one.

†† When I became a teenager in the 1980s, it was still not a big deal since I was used to driving motorcycles and tractors, which didnít even have seatbelts.

†† By the 1990s, some states had passed laws requiring motorists to wear a seatbelt or risk a fine. Again, it was no big deal to me.

†† I changed my habit only after my wife pointed out that I was setting a bad example for our son. She said, ďIf he gets hurt or killed because he sees you not wearing your seatbelt and does the same later in life, I will never forgive you.Ē I started wearing my seatbelt that day.

†† A few years later a seatbelt saved my life in a serious head-on accident in which I was not at fault. I would have been killed if I had not been wearing it.

†† OSHA does not mention seatbelts in its forklift standard, but it does note that operators should be trained regarding the contents of the forklift operatorís manual. These manuals now almost always contain instructions regarding seatbelt use.

†† OSHA also has several letters of interpretation, which I have summarized as follows:

†† 1) Any forklift manufactured with a seatbelt should be equipped with one as good as or better than the original.

†† 2) If a forklift was not equipped by the manufacturer with a seatbelt, contact them and ask if one can be retrofitted to make it safer. If the manufacturer offers a retrofit seatbelt, get it and have it properly installed. Older, electric-powered forklifts must have the battery positively contained before the operator fastens the seatbelt; if not, the sliding battery could kill the operator if the forklift tips over.

†† 3) OSHA will enforce the use of seatbelts through its Ďgeneral dutyí clause.

†† Forget about OSHA for a moment. In the U.S., there are about 100-plus fatal forklift accidents annually. In about 25% of these accidents, the forklift tipped over. We see and hear about so many statistics that we forget: these are 25 people who did not have to die! They were someoneís father, mother, brother, sister or friend.

†† I have heard many stories about people who were killed or horribly injured as the result of being on forklifts that did not have a seatbelt or not wearing the seatbelt. On the other hand, I have never heard of an accident in which a person wearing the seatbelt was killed or seriously injured as the result of wearing it.

†† This should be a wake-up call for companies, trainers and forklift operators: start wearing and enforcing the use of seatbelts. The life you save might be your own, your friendís or your childís.

†† (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 ore-mail dhoover@forklifttrainingsystem.com. David welcomes questions.)








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