Forklift Safety in the Workplace

 In Workplace Safety

Forklift accidents are often responsible for creating costly delays, potential lawsuits and stressful work environments. However, the human cost of forklift misuse is far greater. An estimated 85 people die annually from forklift accidents, according to a 2015 study from OSHA. Overall, nearly 100,000 workers are injured per year as a result of forklift misuse.

About 900,000 forklifts are in estimated to be in use around the nation. Nearly 35,000 serious forklift accidents happen annually according to OSHA. Almost half of those accidents take place in manufacturing facilities. Construction, warehouses and transportation also see their share of forklift collisions. Some accidents are due to driver error. Inadequate training and poor forklift safety design also cause mishaps and injuries. Here’s everything you need to know about forklift accidents and how to keep yourself and other employees safe in the workplace.


Types of Forklift Accidents

Accidents vary according to the kind of forklift and the job the forklift and driver are performing.

Some forklift hazards are:

  • Driving off a loading dock
  • Falls between loading docks and trailers
  • Falls from lift tines or elevated pallets
  • Collisions with pedestrians

The High Price of Accidents

OSHA reports that every year forklift accidents kill 85 people. Many if not most accidents are preventable by either training, personal safety equipment and more emphasis on forklift safety.

It’s impossible to gauge the emotional toll of a workplace death on co-workers and family. Other costs can be measured.

Here are some of the business costs associated with injury accidents at work:

  • Workers’ compensation
  • Medical costs
  • Legal services bills
  • Hiring and training employees
  • Overtime
  • Productivity loss
  • Equipment repair
  • OSHA fines

How to Improve Forklift Safety

Improve visibility in the warehouse

Make sure the warehouse is well-lit and the floor cleared of dangerous debris. Move large equipment, trash, workers’ personal items, and a slew of other potential hazards out of the forklift’s route. To improve close-up visibility, consider mounting safety mirrors throughout the building so drivers have a clear view of who or what may be hiding in their blind spots.

Narrow aisles, excessive dust and raised platforms are common workplace design problems. While examining a workplace environment for forklift hazards, take care to clearly mark areas the forklift could fall off, knock down aisles or otherwise cause damage to company property.

Avoid dangerous behaviors with training

Human error is a common culprit behind forklift accidents. Adequate operator training is key in avoiding accidents before they happen. Forklift operators can accidentally drive forklifts off loading docks, carry unstable loads and tip over, and strike a fellow employee around a blind corner, just to name a few potentially deadly circumstances.

Properly trained operators will know red flags and potentially life-threatening situations before they occur. Good practices for drivers include:

  • Loading the forklift so that operator visibility is not impaired
  • Ensuring fellow workers in the area know there is an operating forklift nearby
  • Avoiding excessive speeds
  • Taking extra caution when coming around blind corners, doorways and other areas of high foot traffic.

Warehouse employees who are not involved in forklift duties still have a responsibility to keep themselves out of harm’s way. Here are some safety tips:

  • Keep a safe distance from the forklift at all times if possible
  • Make eye contact with driver if approaching a moving forklift
  • Do not walk under raised forks
  • Wear neon or brightly colored clothing whenever possible

Create special paths for pedestrians, forklifts

Separating pedestrian walking areas from forklift pathways can be an effective way to circumvent dangerous collisions. Placing guardrails or traffic islands around workstations, offices and other areas where people gather is one way to help guard against potential collisions. For a less intrusive method, place neon tape on the floor to designate pathways. However, this is generally less effective because tape can be quickly ignored by inattentive employees.

OSHA has found that nearly 70 percent of all forklift accidents could have been avoided by following correct training and policy. Protecting your employees from bodily harm and ensuring business runs smoothly go hand-in-hand. Spend a little extra time on practicing safety measures around forklifts to help keep employees safe and business functioning at its optimal level.

Implement a Safety Plan

Set up a forklift safety program at your business to make sure your employees are safe and your business runs smoothly. The recommended forklift safety program includes regular vehicle check-ups and making sure that the equipment is only used for its intended purpose. Many of the yearly deaths occur due to objects falling from the forklift and onto individuals. As such, proper use of the machines is crucial to prevent these accidents and ensure that your workspace remains safe. Taking the time to examine forklifts and determine that each forklift is up-to-date on breaking mechanisms, warning lights, and an assortment of mechanical features is paramount to keeping your workers safe.

Along with this, having a system in place where employees can keep track of any problematic features will help ensure that even the smallest issue does not go unnoticed. Even a slight problem with the breaking line can balloon into catastrophic and deadly mistakes. Keeping a checklist of check-up points that are signed daily can help make sure that your forklift safety program is being followed to the letter.

Using the proper equipment for the task at hand is key to keeping your workplace accident free. There are a variety of different forklifts for different needs, and it is key to use the right lift for the right task. For example, trying to use the average forklift in a tight space can result in accidents and knocked stacks of stock. Similarly, using a smaller forklift for a heavier load can lead to slippage and result in dropped stock, which can endanger workers. Never have an employee ride on the lift portion of a forklift, and make sure that every employee is aware of the presence of the forklift by using the safety lights.


While these seem like simple forklift safety tips, they can help dramatically impact the safety of your workplace. If you are interested in investing in a new forklift to better suit your needs, or you have any question regarding safety protocol advice, contact Storee Construction. We would be happy to answer any of your building and heavy equipment related questions, and advise you on the right tool for your project.