Not many bosses are like Michael Scott, manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company on the television series “The Office,” who tries to prove the warehouse is not dangerous by running – with no training – a forklift. It’s funny to watch the shelves topple like dominos, because no one was hurt and it’s just TV.
But people do get hurt in warehouses –although fewer all the time because of safety measures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says material handling is a “significant safety concern. Forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts and they represent about 25 percent of all forklift-related deaths.” Each year, 100 employees are killed and 95,000 are injured while operating forklifts, according to OSHA statistics. OSHA requires that no one under 18 run a forklift, that operators be trained and certified. Forklifts should not be driven at more than five miles per hour and should never carry passengers. Safety inspections should be conducted at the beginning
“The old training standard was not defined, which caused a tremendous amount of liability for the manufacturers of powered industrial trucks and the general industry as a whole. The current OSHA training standard is well defined with four specific elements: classroom training, written test, driving evaluation for every powered industrial truck that the driver will operate and then the final employer authorization. All training must be site and equipment specific and it is the employer’s responsibility to train, test, evaluate and authorize each operator regardless of previous training or prior experience.” Education is the single most important thing that material handling companies can do to increase safety, he said. “Educate their customers and offer training classes at the customer’s facility or provide their customer with a training kit so that their customer can provide their own in-house training,” Ord said. “The operator coming on shift should do their own inspection, making them responsible for their own safety.”
“Without a doubt, powered industrial truck accidents have decreased,” Ord said. “Employers for the most part are concerned for the safety of their employees. Other factors are being fearful of OSHA non-compliance, willful violations and lawsuit liability.” “There are over 100 different types of powered industrial trucks with extreme differences in the way they operate, features, characteristics and capacities. Without proper operator classroom training and conducting driving evaluations, not only has the operators’ safety been compromised, but it can seriously effect and injure fellow workers,” Ord said. “Safety training is the employer’s responsibility to assure and safe guard their employees from hazards in the workplace that can cause injury or death. In many cases, work related injuries and deaths could have been avoided if there had been proper training,” Ord said.
“Forklift operator safety training instructors can be any person knowledgeable of the equipment and application and someone that is capable and competent. Instructors are not certified and never have been and are not required by OSHA to attend a “Train the Trainer” certification class. Any operator of a powered industrial truck, defined by OSHA as a piece of equipment designed to transport, move or lift materials and is powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor, must be trained specific to the OSHA training standard, 29CFR1910.178, Powered Industrial Trucks, para. L, Operator Training,” Ord said.