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The tragic background of forklift fatalities

Drivers can make mistakes. High speed over rough ground may be too appealing. A seat belt can seem too much trouble. These are a few of the many workplace situations that can lead to injury, damage or death with motorized machinery.

Forklifts and other powered industrial trucks (PITs) are leaders in the causes for workplace accidents that result in hospitalization for serious injuries. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports about 85 workers die every year due to forklift operation, with injuries numbering nearly 35,000 annually.

Newer operators may be unaware of the different speeds, forces and balances of forklifts, pallet jacks and order-pickers. This can lead to dangerous misuse, including a vehicle tipping and crushing the operator. This results in around 42 percent of forklift fatalities.

Seat belt use is especially important on forklifts and similar vehicles. Slow road speeds may lead to the impression that safety restraints are not necessary, but faster maneuvers or rotations can cause the same hazardous forces as sudden starts and stops.

In addition to enforcing OSHA regulations and other safety standards across jurisdictions, employers can introduce or supplement training courses that can prove to be vital in reducing the chance of a forklift accident. Operations, load capacity, stability and vehicle limitations are all important topics to be covered in training courses.

The safest place for a driver while a PIT is operating is strapped into the driver's seat with a seat belt. This and other basic facts about heavy machinery safety can help prevent serious or fatal injury in the workplace. Talk to your employer or manager if you are concerned about training and safety with the PITs in your work area.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety, "Death by Forklift is Really the PITs," Chuck Paulausky, accessed Aug. 1, 2017

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