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Lockout/Tagout Program (Jul/Aug-10)
Safe Handling of Compressed Gas Cylinders (May/Jun-10)
What You Should Know about OSHA and Plastic Working Machinery (Mar/Apr-10)
Fasten Those Forklift Seat Belts (Jan/Feb-10)
My Back Hurts (Nov/Dec-09)
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Safety Means . . . Never Having to Say You're Sorry (Jan/Feb-08)
Flammables and Combustible Liquids (Nov/Dec-07)
Designing-In Safety NOT Retrofitting Safety (Sep/Oct-07)
Back Safety and Lifting (Jul/Aug-07)
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Your Hearing Keep it for a Lifetime (Mar/Apr-07)
Light Up the Holidays the Safe Way (Nov/Dec-06)
Would You Risk Your Employee's Life? (Sep/Oct-06)
How to Control Workers' Compensation Costs (Jul/Aug-06)
Compliance with 70E Electrical Standards (May/Jun-06)
OSHA Is on the Move (Mar/Apr-06)
Workplace Violence (Jan/Feb-06)
The Aging Workforce (Nov/Dec-05)
The Safety Paradox (Sep/Oct-05)
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Safety Is Everyone's Business (Mar/Apr-05)
New Year's Resolution Safety (Jan/Feb-05)
Safe Driving (Nov/Dec-04)
Terror In The Skies Revisited (Sep/Oct-04)
How They Got Hurt (Jul/Aug-04)
In-Plant Air Monitoring & Analysis (May/Jun-04)
Safety on the Job and Complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act (Mar/Apr-04)
Link to Article Archive (Jan/Feb-04)
A Supervisor's Duty (Nov/Dec-03)
Machine Safety – Are Your Machines Safe to Operate? (Sep/Oct-03)
Summer is Here (Jul/Aug-03)
Working Safely On Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts) (May/Jun-03)
Does Your Safety and Health Workplace Program Contain All of These Elements? (Mar/Apr-03)
Methylene Chloride (Jan/Feb-03)
Safety Signs & Labels - Does Your Facility Comply? (Nov/Dec-02)
Indoor Air Quality (Sep/Oct-02)
When OSHA Arrives (Jul/Aug-02)
Facts About the Occupation Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) (May/Jun-02)
Workplace Fire Safety (Mar/Apr-02)
OSHA 300 Form (Jan/Feb-02)
Preparing for Disaster (Nov/Dec-01)
How Much is a Life Worth? (Sep/Oct-01)
Material Handling Programs (Jul/Aug-01)
It's Up To You To Protect Your Skin (May/Jun-01)
When You’ve Been Handed the Responsibility for Safety (Mar/Apr-01)
A Fresh Look at Machine Safeguarding (Jan/Feb-01)
Safe Work Habits (Nov/Dec-00)
The Importance of Material Safety Data Sheets (Sep/Oct-00)
Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (Jul/Aug-00)
Lockout/Tagout Program (May/Jun-00)
OSHA Violations, Citations and Penalties for 1998 (Mar/Apr-00)
Erogonomics and Machinery Safeguarding (Jan/Feb-00)
General Machine Principles (Nov/Dec-99)
SAFETY SOLUTIONS
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SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Fasten Those Forklift Seat Belts

Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or forklifts, occur in US workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, they are struck by a lift truck, or when they fall while on elevated pallets and tines. Most incidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls and machinery. Unfortunately, most employee injuries and property damage can be attributed to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety-rule enforcement and insufficient or inadequate training.

I currently teach for California State University Dominguez Hills OSHA Training Institute. One of the topics I teach is OSHA Forklift Safety. Powered industrial trucks are addressed in specific standards for the general industry, marine terminals, construction and long shoring. The OSHA standards also require that you train your employees in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B56 standards. One of the questions that I am always asked when teaching a course is, “Do my employees have to wear seatbelts when driving forklifts?”

Forklift operators should wear seat belts. Analysis of forklift accidents reveals that the operators who were injured or killed were often not wearing seat belts. While seat belts can't prevent accidents, they can prevent serious injuries and save lives. Here are three real accident reports that tell the story:

An employee was using a forklift to move waste material into a large, drive-in waste dumpster on the company's outdoor loading dock. He'd just dumped a load and was backing out of the dumpster when he backed off the side of the loading dock, falling just under 4 feet to the pavement below. Since he wasn't wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the forklift and was crushed under the truck's rollover cage. He died 9 days later.

An employee was driving an unloaded forklift down a ramp with a 13 percent slope when the forklift started to tip over. The operator attempted to jump clear and the rollover protective structure (ROP) landed on him and killed him. The employee was not wearing the supplied seat belt.

A forklift operator drove his truck down a ramp rapidly and appeared to be attempting to make a sharp left turn. The forklift overturned. Apparently, the employee was unaccustomed to the quickness and sharp turning radius of the new forklift. He was also not wearing the provided seat belt and when he fell from the seat, his head was caught under the overhead protective cage.

"OSHA's enforcement policy on the use of seat belts on powered industrial trucks is that employers are obligated to require operators of powered industrial trucks that are equipped with operator restraint devices, including seat belts, to use the devices. CSHOs [Compliance Safety and Health Officers] will enforce the use of such devices under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act." What does this section state?

Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees". Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to "comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act".

Getting operators to wear their seat belts--easier said than done! Some common complaints are that the seat belts are restricting and that it's easy to forget to put the belt on. Keep in mind that you are likely to hear the same kinds of excuses you get from employees who fail to use other kinds of required PPE. So use the same type of approach when combating those objections. For example:

Tell forklift operators that they're required to use seat belts and enforce your policy the way you do all your other safety rules. (Lax enforcement is frequently cited as a reason many operators fail to use them.)

Recount stories like the ones above and if you can, use pictures of one of these accidents. Some employees may scoff, but that ugly picture is going to stick with them somewhere in the back of their minds--and it might just make them snap on the belt.

Remind them that no matter how much of a nuisance wearing a seat belt might be, it's worth it to ensure that they can go home to their families and friends safely.

Another option is to refit your forklifts with seat belts that won't allow the operator to start up the forklift unless the belt is buckled. For a modest per-truck cost, you can improve compliance. But you still have to monitor, because operators can just buckle the belt and sit on it. So you still have to get them to see the importance of wearing a seat belt.

If you have any questions on the proper use of forklifts, please write to me at jpodojil@podojilconsulting. com.

For more information, click on the author link at the top of the page.

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