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Forklift Safety: Protect Visitors to Your Plant
With visiting pedestrians at your location, educating them is not practical. Warning them is an improvement but is only minimally effective. You need to find ways to control or eliminate the risk to them.
By David Hoover
Date Posted: 3/1/2008
The dictionary definition of pedestrian is “somebody who is traveling on foot, especially in an area also used by cars.” Substitute the word forklift or powered industrial truck and you have the definition for industrial applications versus out on the street. Basically, anyone that is not riding something is considered a pedestrian, so that is pretty simple.
As I see it there are two types of pedestrians: the ‘local’ pedestrian and the ‘visiting’ pedestrian.
These are pedestrians who work regularly in an environment around forklifts or other powered equipment. In fact, many of them may even be operators at certain times. These people know or should know about the many dangers of working around equipment weighing over 8,000 pounds with relatively low visibility.
The simple solution to keep this group safe is to educate them on the risks and dangers of working around forklifts and then enforce the rules for staying alert and keeping a safe distance from forklifts.
This group does not work at your location, and they are not educated on the dangers. In addition, they are not very concerned with the risks and dangers around your plant.
How about the truck drivers who come to your business? Do they ever wander from their truck and risk getting hit by a forklift? Could a child find his way onto your property and injure himself? Does the public – including vendors, customers and other visitors — have access to areas that expose them to your equipment? Since most businesses are not very well secured and frequently operate forklifts outside, it is critical to control these kind of situations.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has noted several ways you can deal with dangerous situations. You can train people to work safely around a danger, you can warn people about a danger, or, — best of all — you can engineer a solution that removes the danger.
With visiting pedestrians, educating them is not practical. Warning them is an improvement but is only minimally effective. You need to find ways to control or eliminate the risk to them.
Here are some suggestions to reduce risk of injury to visiting pedestrians.
1. Warn Them.
Make sure you have signs (English and Spanish may both be advisable) at the front of your business and at the back entrance or back lot. Signs should direct all visitors to the front office, prohibit any unauthorized persons, and warn of the danger of heavy equipment in use.
2. Control Them
You can allow visitors to come into the front office, but keep the rest of your facility locked up. Side doors, dock doors, back doors and other means of entry should be secured at all times if they are accessible to the public. If you have a yard where forklifts operate, fence it in and control access to the lot through a single manageable point if possible. It is easier to control and manage one point of access than five.
3. Equip Them
Make sure visitors have all the personal protective equipment that your workers in the same area are using.
If you require hard hats for employees in your back lot but do not require them of truck drivers making deliveries or picking up loads in the back lot, you run the risk of exposing them to danger and your company to liability. You may want to require them to wear a bright orange safety vest when in areas where forklifts operate; this makes it easier for the forklift operator to see them and is becoming a more popular safety practice.
4. Stay with Them.
Do not leave visitors unattended no matter who they are. Make sure someone from your company is with them from the start to the completion of their visit. This way you can look out for them and make sure they don’t get into the way of your forklifts or other equipment.
Visiting truck drivers can be a real problem. Give them two options: stay in the cab until you have finished loading or unloading, or give them an alternate area, like a break room, to wait until they are ready to leave. They may not appreciate this treatment, but left to their own devices they can end up anywhere, including in the way of your forklifts.
(David Hoover is president of Forklift Training Systems. For more information on this or other topics related to forklift training, safety or products, contact David at (740) 763-4978, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his company’s Web site at www.forklifttrainingsystem.com.)