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Avoiding Danger - The Role of Fork Lift Training in Your Safety Program

For anyone working in a public sector, or private industrial setting, operating or working around a powered industrial truck (PIT), more commonly referred to as a forklift or lift truck, is a part of the daily routine. Most operators have been trained on how to operate a forklift, but the safety aspect of the training isn’t always  a priority.
According to OSHA statistics, forklifts are the cause of about 85 fatal accidents per year; 34,900 accidents that result in serious injury; and 61,800 which are classified as non-serious. These numbers are disturbingly high and beg the question whether  workers are being properly trained to operate forklifts or if they are just not following best operating practices?  Regardless of the answer, it is clear that forklift accidents are a serious problem. This issue could be avoided altogether if better safety training was employed at the time of hire, and consistently at least every three years.
Per OSHA, employers are responsible to ensure each operator is competent to operate a forklift safely.  Forklift operators must be 18 years of age or older and must be trained specifically to the forklift(s) they will be operating as there are many models with varying instruments and control levers.  Training must be conducted by "persons with the necessary knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence", which does not mean just anyone with experience on a forklift. Training includes both formal instruction and practical driver training, and must be completed initially and every three years thereafter.

Refresher training is required: (1) whenever an operator is observed operating unsafely; (2) when an operator receives an unsatisfactory evaluation; (3) when an operator is assigned to a different type of Powered Industrial Truck (PIT); and, (4) when changes in workplace conditions could affect safe operation. As with any OSHA-required training, the training and evaluations must be documented.

Forklift operator training is crucial!  Those that operate forklifts without it, become an immediate threat to themselves and everyone working around them.  Proper forklift training not only helps to reduce and/or prevent accidents from happening, it provides the operator with basic driving fundamentals and important procedures and best practices to follow when operating a forklift. 
Over 11% of all forklifts are involved in accidents a year, and over 90% of all forklifts are involved in accidents within their 8 year lifespan. Forklift safety training should not be taken lightly. It is imperative not only to you and your employees, it is THE LAW! Below are some facts and figures which highlight the need for training. 
Common causes of fatal forklift accidents:
42% of fatalities resulted from being crushed by the forklift tipping over. 
25% of fatalities resulted from being crushed between the forklift and a different surface.
11% of fatalities resulted from being crushed between two forklifts.
10% of fatalities resulted from being struck or run over by a forklift.
8% of fatalities resulted from being struck by falling material from a forklift.
4% of fatalities resulted from falling from the platform on the forklift. 
Common locations/industries of fatal forklift accidents:
42.5% of fatalities occurred while manufacturing.
23.8% of fatalities occurred during construction.
12.5% of fatalities occurred in the wholesale trade industry.
11% of fatalities occurred in the transportation industry.
9% of fatalities occurred in the retail trade industry. 
1.2% occurred while mining. 

As you can see, forklift fatalities occur in virtually every industry and studies have indicated that a majority of these accidents could have been prevented with the proper forklift training or simply just better training.  Please don’t let you or your employees become a statistic…  ENSURE THEY ARE PROPERLY TRAINED!
Fehr Graham conducts a large number of forklift training sessions a year in various public and private settings. Let Fehr Graham’s experienced forklift trainers provide your business or municipality with customized training to help keep your employees safe. For more information, call Michelle Boeldt at 920.892.2444 or email at mboeldt@fehr-graham.com.
Sources:  OSHA website and Safety Partners, LTD.

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