Stay safe on foot around forklifts
When it comes to forklift truck safety, the attention is almost always on operators and managers. However, pedestrians often work near forklifts, and are at high risk of being involved in accident.
In the UK, RIDDOR accident reports over the last few years show that over 40 percent of incidents involving a forklift were impacts with a third person*. Of these, over 60 percent were pedestrians working nearby, 20 percent were co-workers/supervisors, and 15 percent were delivery drivers.
These accidents have devastating and life-changing impacts, both on the individuals involved, and on the business itself, with some incidents resulting in costly compensation claims, court cases and fines. Every company has an obligation to keep everyone on site safe, and minimise risk. It is vital to train forklift operators and maximise their safety awareness, but it is every bit as important to focus on those who work on foot around these potentially dangerous machines.
Separation is the best policy
The simplest and best advice is: keep well away from forklifts. Don’t enter an area where they are working unless it is essential, and you are authorised to do so (i.e. no taking shortcuts).
If you need to be in an area where forklifts are working use segregated walkways. These should be protected by barriers or clearly highlighted with floor markings.
Never be tempted to walk or work under a raised load and always keep a safe distance. How much distance can be affected by several factors, including:
- Width of the load – the wider the load, the greater the area of impact if it falls
- Height of the load – the higher the load, the wider the danger area below
- Type of loads – you’ll need to leave a greater ‘safety zone’ if the load is volatile, high-risk or likely to move as it’s being shifted (that includes liquids)
If a forklift is fitted with warning lights that create an “exclusion zone” make sure you keep away from it.
Don’t take chances
Never take a ride as a passenger on a forklift and never allow yourself to be lifted on a pallet or on the forks.
Avoid, at all costs, the impulse to try to steady a load that is slipping off the forks and never climb on the back of a forklift to stop it tipping because the load is too heavy. People are regularly killed trying to ‘help’ in this way.
Approach with caution
Always remember, it’s much easier for you to spot a forklift than it is for the operator to spot you. So, where it’s provided, wear hi-vis clothing.
Importantly, when a forklift is coming towards you, stop and make sure the operator has seen you. Make – and maintain – eye contact with the operator until you or the truck have moved safely away. If you need to approach the truck, only do so when it has come to a complete stop – and then, only ever approach from the side (not the front or back).
Stay vigilant In areas where you know forklifts are working and be aware of ‘blind spots’ when you are entering an aisle, going round a sharp corner or going through a doorway.
And finally, help keep pedestrian walkways clear so they can be used at all times, either by cleaning up or reporting spills, broken pallets, plastic wrap so forklifts can operate safely.
To help everyone stay safe around forklifts, we have created a poster with our top 10 tips that you can download and display in your workplace.
- Action points
- Segregate walkways with barriers or floor markings
- Make sure all pedestrians wear high vis clothing in the warehouse
- Enhance pedestrian safety by fitting your forklifts with warning lights that project visual distance indicators onto the ground
*Figures cited by UKMHA for National Forklift Safety Day www.nationalforkliftsafetyday.co.uk/2020-pedestrian-impact/