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NIOSH Tips for Preventing Forklift Death, Injuries

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has published a new alert document on preventing injuries and deaths\r\nto workers who operate or work near forklifts.

Forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks, are used in numerous work settings, primarily to move materials. Each year in the United States, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a new alert document on preventing injuries and deaths from workers who operate or work near forklifts.

In its investigations of forklift-related deaths, NIOSH found that many workers and employers may not be aware of the risks of operating or working near forklifts and are not following the procedures set forth in the OSHA standards, consensus standards or equipment manufacturer''s guidelines.

The alert describes seven incidents resulting in the deaths of seven workers who were either operating or working near forklifts.

NIOSH determined that in each incident, the deaths could have been prevented by using proper safety procedures and equipment and by following the provisions of the OSHA standards.

The NIOSH alert also includes the following tips for workers who operate or work near forklifts:

  • Do not operate a forklift unless you have been trained and licensed.
  • Use seatbelts if they are available.
  • Report to your supervisor any damage or problems that occur to a forklift during your shift.
  • Do not jump from an overturning, sit-down type forklift. Stay with the truck, holding on firmly and leaning in the opposite direction of the overturn.
  • Exit from a stand-up type forklift with rear-entry access by stepping backward if a lateral tipover occurs.
  • Use extreme caution on grades and ramps.
  • On grades, tilt the load back and raise it only as far as needed to clear the road surface.
  • Do not raise or lower the forks while the forklift is moving.
  • Do not handle loads that are heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift.
  • Operate the forklift at a speed that will permit it to be stopped safely.
  • Slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed.
  • Look toward the travel path and keep a clear view of it.
  • Do not allow passengers to ride on forklift trucks unless a seat is provided.
  • When dismounted from a forklift, set the parking brake, lower the forks or lifting carriage, and neutralize the controls.
  • Do not drive up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object.
  • Do not use a forklift to elevate workers who are standing on the forks.
  • Elevate a worker on a platform only when the vehicle is directly below the work area.
  • Whenever a truck is used to elevate personnel, secure the elevating platform to the lifting carriage or forks of the forklift.
  • Use a restraining means such as rails, chains or body belt with a lanyard or deceleration device for the worker(s) on the platform.
  • Do not drive to another locations with the work platform elevated.

"Reducing the risk of forklift incidents requires a safe work environment, a safe forklift, comprehensive worker training, safe work practices, and systematic traffic management," said NIOSH.

NIOSH recommends that employers and workers comply with OSHA regulations and consensus standards, maintain equipment, and take the following measures to prevent injury when operating or working near forklifts.

To read the complete alert, "Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts," go to the NIOSH Web site at

by Virginia Foran

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