Safe Working Within Forklift Truck Area Training Resource

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Forklift safety for pedestrians

Forklift accidents are particularly dangerous to pedestrians and many of them result in serious injuries or fatalities. Pedestrians can be struck or crushed by forklifts, hit by objects falling from a forklift or fall from a forklift they are riding on.

Each year approximately 1,300 workers in the UK are seriously injured from accidents involving forklift trucks. 75% of these accidents involve pedestrians that were completing tasks unrelated to the immediate truck operation at the time of their accident.

Pedestrians who are not aware of the dangers have an increased risk of being injured, however most forklift accidents are preventable when pedestrians follow safe practices in the workplace.

Forklift safety for operators

Forklift operators have a dual responsibility to keep themselves safe and to ensure the safety of pedestrians within their work environment. Pedestrian safety will be increased if operators take simple precautions when pedestrians are walking in areas of forklift use. A culture of communication and awareness will keep everyone safer in any environment and the following recommendations will help to potentially make the workspace safer.

  • Operators should ensure the right of way is given to pedestrians.
  • Operators should stop and wait for pedestrians to clear the area before proceeding along their route with caution.
  • Be sure to stop, honk the horn and proceed cautiously at intersections to warn pedestrians of the forklift’s presence.
  • All travel and braking should be performed smoothly and in a controlled manner.
  • When vision is impaired, be sure to use a spotter and travel in reverse if a load is blocking forward visibility.

Safety Advice – Pedestrians should never assume a forklift operator will see them. While pedestrians have the right of way in forklift operating areas, this does not mean an operator will always see them. A pedestrian should keep their eyes on a moving forklift whenever in its vicinity.

Understand the hazards

Pedestrians must understand the hazards that are associated with working around forklifts. Forklifts can tip over easily, they cannot brake quickly and the forks, mast and cage along with tall or bulky loads can severely restrict visibility. Forklifts are loud machines and it can be hard for operators and pedestrians to hear one another. When forklifts are turning they are especially dangerous, the sharper the turn, the wider the angle is at the back of the forklift and it can swing out and hit pedestrians. Each of these factors contribute to the risk of injury and untrained operators and pedestrians have an increased risk of causing an accident.

A common occurrence is people working alongside forklifts, often colleagues or delivery drivers, suffering life-changing injuries, or worse, because of a truck losing its load during operation. Many suffer crush injuries while trying to steady the load or getting involved in the loading or unloading of their vehicle.

As noted previously, 75% of forklift truck accidents involve pedestrians on an unrelated task, but around half of the remaining pedestrian accidents involve delivery truck drivers not respecting safe working distances while their vehicles are being unloaded. In areas where physical segregation isn’t possible, safe working practices should be followed to reduce the risk.

Injuries to pedestrians can almost always be avoided by ensuring they are never allowed to be in the operating area in the first place. Should a forklift lose its load with no pedestrians in proximity, the worst-case scenario is damage to stock or equipment.

Safety Advice – Every lift operation should be assessed on its own merits to adequately reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring and the best way to do this is via a Risk Assessment, followed up with the relevant Safe Systems of Work.

Staying clear of forklifts

Some larger workplaces have designated walkways in forklift areas to signify where pedestrians can walk. In smaller workspaces where pedestrians and forklifts must travel the same paths, there must be enough space for pedestrians to walk safely. If there is not enough room, the area should be closed off to pedestrians while forklifts are in use.

Floor areas must be kept clean and materials and debris should be removed from walkways immediately, if obstructions occupy pedestrian paths, people may walk in the path of forklifts.

Try to minimise the risk by ensuring safe distances are always kept between yourself and forklifts when in use. It is important to remain out of the way of a moving forklift, here are some safe practices to help stay clear of forklifts at work:

  • Do not approach a moving forklift.
  • Stay to one side to allow room for forklifts to pass.
  • Always yield to forklifts as the operator may not see you or be able to stop quickly.
  • Make eye contact with the operator and only move when they have given you the signal to go.
  • If you must approach a forklift, approach it from the side after it has stopped.
  • Keep your feet clear of the forklift.
  • Move away from the forklift before the operator moves it, do not wait for the forklift to move away from you.
  • Stand clear of a forklift while it is turning.

Safety Advice – If you can’t see a forklift operator, they probably can’t see you. Communication is key to your safety so communicate with the forklift operator before you enter the forklift area. Stop and look both ways, make eye contact and proceed only when the operator signals they see you.

Follow basic safety procedures

Forklifts are useful but dangerous and working around them requires constant awareness. Forklift operators will do what they can to do their job safely but pedestrians must take responsibility for their own safety. If you are a pedestrian in your workplace, remain aware of your surroundings, communicate with forklift operators and always follow workplace safety procedures. Below is a list of recommended basic safety procedures:

  • Consider wearing hi-vis equipment.
  • Always communicate with the forklift operator.
  • Avoid distractions when walking in forklift traffic areas.
  • Never ride on forklifts.
  • Never pass under an elevated load.
  • Stay out of the path that a load can fall into.
  • Do not take shortcuts between stacked materials.

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