Common Forklift Accidents & How to Prevent Them

Forklift Accidents

Despite the fact that both yourself and your employees feel comfortable operating heavy warehouse machinery in and around your premises, the forklifts, reach trucks and other pieces of equipment that are being used can still pose a danger to your workers, even the staff who work on the shop floor.

Even those who are highly-skilled, fully-trained and extremely experienced in operating forklifts can be susceptible to an unfortunate workplace accident when behind the wheel, so it’s important that everyone is aware of the risks that might present themselves whilst driving these specialist pieces of equipment.

As well as understanding the dangers and possible situations that could arise when operating a forklift, you’ll also need to know how to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Putting preventative measures in place now could help to protect your workers further down the line, whether they’re trained to drive a forklift or not.

An overturning forklift

A forklift overturning is actually the leading cause of forklift-related deaths in the USA and given that there are a number of different factors that could cause the machine to tip over in the first place, it’s not surprising that this is one of the most common workplace hazards in the material handling industry.

There are many reasons for why a forklift may overturn, including:

  • Turning the machine too sharply
  • Stopping or braking too quickly
  • Driving on uneven surfaces
  • Taking the forklift over rough or loose terrain
  • Navigating steep inclines
  • The weight or load its carrying is way too heavy

Any one of the aforementioned things could cause the forklift to lose its centre of gravity, particularly driving quickly around corners and attempting to lift more than the recommended weight.

How to prevent a forklift from turning over

There are a number of different measures to put in place that could help to prevent a forklift from tipping over, many of them quick, easy and simple. Some of the things you operators can do to prevent an accident include:

  • Being aware of your surroundings both before you fire up the forklift and whilst operating it – this goes for both the driver and those on the shop floor
  • When moving, keep the load as low to the ground as possible to help maintain balance, particularly during acceleration and when turning
  • Always follow the speed guidelines given by either your employer or the forklift manufacturer
  • Never raise or lower the load whilst the forklift is in transit
  • Come to a controlled stop, don’t slam the brakes on unless it’s an emergency situation
  • Take turns, particularly tight ones, carefully
  • Move slowly in a straight line when navigating slopes and gradients

Pedestrian collisions

The view of the driver could be obstructed at any time, whether they’re turning around a corner and encounter a blind spot or are transporting goods that restrict their view slightly, it’s important that everyone is aware that a forklift is in operation closeby. The driver should also be fully-trained to ensure that their view is never restricted in order to keep everyone safe.

Someone on the ground should look out for flashing lights or even alarms that suggest the machine is in transit and they should take evasive action or stay away from that area until the task has been completed and the vehicle is shut down.

How to prevent pedestrian collisions whilst operating a forklift

Where those on the shop floor will be looking out for specific warning signs to keep themselves safe, forklift operators should also be putting measures in place to ensure this accident doesn’t occur. Some of those measures may include:

  • Going for a walk around the warehouse, paying attention to the number of people around and what they might be doing
  • Let those on the floor know that a forklift will be coming into their vicinity soon
  • Tell those on the floor to listen out for alarms and look for flashing lights in order to stay away from the vehicle when in operation
  • Be aware of all your surroundings before you fire up the machine
  • Don’t lift large, heavy loads or raise them to the point where your view is obstructed
  • Put up signs that warn others of heavy machine operation
  • Lay floor tape down to create a cordon between floor staff and moving forklifts
  • Train staff to a good standard
  • Ask a coworker to spot you, just in case

People falling from a forklift

Although this isn’t a very common occurrence in this particular industry, sadly, it does happen on occasion. As warehouses are stacking their shelves higher, workers are looking to forklifts to raise them to a level that’s never really been necessary before now.

However, forklifts aren’t always equipped to deal with an uneven distribution of weight effectively, or even safely. As a result, they can become unbalanced and that can often be enough to cause a person to fall from the chassis.

How to prevent people from falling off a forklift

There are a number of things you can do to try and prevent people from falling out of a forklift, or any other piece of machinery for that matter, including:

  • Understand exactly what each one of your machines are capable of
  • Use a scissor lift, reach truck or an order picker to access loads that are located high on warehouse racking
  • Only lift the recommended weight given to your by your employer or the forklift manufacturer
  • Use an approved lifting cage attachment or even a safety harness for extra protection
  • Always wear your seatbelt when operating the forklift

Loads falling from the forklift

This is an extremely common hazard and is often the cause of many forklift accidents. Due to the unique and unusual shapes of some of the loads a forklift is expected to carry, it’s not always possible for that cargo to be transported securely.

Often, these loads need to be moved quickly to their destination, particularly if it involves food and other perishable items. But this isn’t always possible to do safely, which means you need to put measures in place to ensure the cargo is stable at all times.

How to prevent loads from falling off a forklift

There are many things you can do to stop loads from falling off the forklift. No matter how big or small the load is or what shape the cargo might be, you’ll be able to transport your goods as promptly and as securely as possible and those measures include:

  • If you have concerns, ask an appropriate member of the team to assess the physics and risks associated with lifting and carrying such a load
  • Operators need to be trained in transporting heavy or unusually-shaped loads
  • All workers should be aware of the lifting capabilities of their forklift – this is often recommended by the manufacturer or your employer

A mechanical forklift failure

Mechanical failures can be dangerous because there’s quite a lot that could go wrong whilst the forklift is operational. Whether the brakes stop working or the forks fail to rise, each problem poses a different, serious risk to your workers. There could be a number of reasons for a forklift breaking down, including its age and how well it’s looked after in general.

How to prevent a mechanical forklift failure

Here’s everything you can do to try and prevent your forklift from experiencing a mechanical failure:

  • Conduct regular maintenance checks and inspections
  • Repair, fit and replace parts and components as and when it’s needed
  • Ensure the forklift is always fuelled and fully-charged before using it
  • Make sure to check the battery on a regular basis, ensuring its fluid levels are topped up and that it’s cleaned to a good standard

Refurbished Forklifts are always on hand to provide our customers with used forklifts and other refurbished pieces of warehouse equipment that are of excellent quality. Each and every one of our machines have been reconditioned to an exceptional standard, so you’ll always be able to look to us for a cost-effective, high-calibre material handling solution. For more information about our products and services, get in touch with a member of our team today – we’re always happy to help.

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