Construction vehicles are usually thought of as heavy excavators, bulldozers, and large trucks that move massive amounts of material. The safe operation of these vehicles is paramount for the amount of damage that can occur if something goes wrong.
Because of their size and power, they’re easily recognized as a potential danger. But what about the smaller construction vehicles like forklifts? This equipment can be comparably smaller and more maneuverable.
Every day, people work and move among these vehicles in all types of environments, including narrow passages, small loading and unloading areas, and confined interiors.
They perform fairly straightforward actions like lifting, transporting, and lowering. Their size and ubiquity can make it easy to get complacent when operating a forklift or working around them.
That may be why forklift accidents are unfortunately so common. Failing to comply with forklift safety procedures and general mishandling have caused forklifts to be overturned, damaged surrounding property, and worst of all, led to injury and loss of life.
A forklift injury is often a serious injury. Almost 30 percent result in fractures and one in 20 include multiple traumatic injuries or amputations. In 2020, nearly 80 people died on the job and 7,290 nonfatal but serious injuries occurred due to a forklift accident.
These tragic outcomes are vastly preventable. Proper forklift safety training and compliance mitigate a lot of risks. Improvements to material handling technology could greatly reduce forklift accidents and improve worker safety.
Preventing Forklift Accidents
One of the simplest rules to follow to prevent forklift accidents is to not operate or allow anyone else to operate this equipment if they are not licensed, trained, and certified to do so. At a glance, a forklift looks like something that can be easily controlled by anyone who’s driven a car or small vehicle, but this is not the case.
Operators who have undergone forklift safety training and operator certification know how to avoid circumstances that cause injuries, such as the position of the forks and controls, how to proceed when approaching a blind corner, whether the particular forklift can navigate the specific area, and what to do and not do when people are within a certain range.
An untrained operator can easily miss critical steps and signs and accidents can happen in an instant. For this reason, it’s also important that workers who are not forklift operators also observe proper safety measures when working around this equipment and any pedestrians are fully aware they’re in a forklift operating or work zone.
Beyond worker actions and behavior, forklifts also need to be properly examined in between shifts to ensure there are no defects or issues that might interfere with safe operation. Routine and necessary maintenance should also be kept up for this reason.
Improving Forklift Safety Through Technology
Depending on the job that needs to be done and where they need to operate, forklifts might be heavy, large, and emit fuel exhaust. But even the most heavy-duty material handling equipment is getting lighter, safer, and more efficient without a sacrifice to power and utility.
Advancements in battery cells and electric power have led to a new generation of compact forklifts that go beyond the warehouse to the construction site.
Replacing older gas and diesel-powered units with newer electric forklifts can improve working conditions by reducing heat, emissions, and noise. Among the more recent and advanced introductions to the market are autonomous forklifts.
These units have been designed mainly for warehouse use, but construction sites are getting more options for AI-controlled and driverless vehicles. In addition to alleviating labor shortages, mitigating the potential for mishandling and human error are among the proposed benefits of this new forklift technology.