Forklifts and the Hazards of Loading and Unloading

images (2)On almost every substantial construction project, forklifts are used to move materials and these workhorses require careful safety precautions – The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the United States, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents each year. Loading and unloading materials is of particular concern although forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts; they represent about 25% of all forklift-related deaths.

OSHA emphasizes that proper safety measures are essential for all operations of forklifts and other power industrial trucks, especially when loading and unloading.

Workers loading and unloading materials should be instructed in safe procedures appropriate to the material they handle. Truck or rail tank car loading or the unloading of flammable/combustible liquids is one of the most hazardous operations likely to be undertaken at any manufacturing or storage facility. The powered industrial trucks standard (29 CFR 1910.178) is the most commonly cited standard in the material-handling industries.”

NIOSH also reports that “Workers engaged in the loading or unloading of suspension-type highway trailers may be at an increased risk of injury due to the inability of damaged trailers to support the weight of the powered industrial truck used to load or unload the trailer.”

Experts cite the following basic safety measures for loading/unloading:

  • Even on level ground, there is a risk of machine roll-over during loading or unloading. Make sure you are centered on the ramps and stay straight. Allow enough room to maneuver the trailer and machine, which is sometimes difficult on tightly compressed jobsites.
  • Use a spotter for guidance. Make sure the machine clears the ramps before turning. Keep people away from the sides of the machine during loading/unloading.
  • Check the trailer deck, clearances and stability. Review your lock-out/tag-out plan to be sure the machine is at “Zero Energy State” when stowed.
  • Use proper tie-down procedures. If using compression chain binders, use caution when opening the handle. The load may shift just enough to add tension to the chain and the handle may spring open. Use safety tie wires or switch to ratchet binders.
  • Secure Your Load

For additional information, see Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-109). For all your safety concerns, contact Diversified Safety Services.

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