Employees in the manufacturing or warehousing industry in Missouri face a variety of hazards, of which one of the most significant is forklifts. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says thousands of workers suffer forklift-related injuries every year, and many injured victims do not survive. For this reason, the agency prescribes safety regulations for forklift operators, and it governs compliance strictly.
If you are the operator of one of over 850,000 forklifts working in facilities nationwide, you will likely know that you have a significant responsibility to operate the vehicle in a safe manner that will not endanger the lives of your co-workers. Forklift accidents typically involve crushing or pinning workers against hard surfaces or tip-overs, which often result in the operators' deaths.
Most forklift accidents follow a few basic errors that compliance with safety regulations can prevent. Taking the following precautions can eliminate the risks of incidents that can cause serious injuries or deaths:
- Training and certification: Only adequately trained and certified workers may operate forklifts. As such an operator, it is your responsibility to ensure proper maintenance and servicing of the machine. Never allow an untrained co-worker to drive your forklift. Irresponsible horseplay with these dangerous machines can have devastating consequences.
- Safe driving: Negligent driving is the primary cause of forklift accidents. Distracted forklift drivers are as dangerous as distracted motorists. Your focus must be on the task at hand, and keep in mind that the load you carry could limit your vision. Be extra careful when driving near edges, such as on loading docks, as a significant percentage of fatalities result from driving forklifts off loading docks.
- Proper loading: Forklifts are for loading cargo and not people. Never use your forklift to elevate a co-worker to a higher level. Learn proper loading techniques to gain an understanding of how to balance a load to avoid tipping over. Once loaded, take special care when driving, especially when you navigate the machine around corners.
- Carbon monoxide danger: Proper ventilation is essential if you operate the forklift in an enclosed area. The machine emits carbon monoxide, which could overcome any workers in the area within minutes. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly.
- Safe parking: Remember that you remain responsible for your forklift, even after the end of your workday. Make sure you park it in a safe and secure spot, and remove the keys.
When accidents happen
Even if you take all these safety precautions, forklift accidents can still occur. If you suffer serious forklift-related injuries in such an unfortunate event, you might have a long road to recovery during which time mounting medical bills and lost wages could become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are resources to help you navigate a benefits claim to cover these losses through the Missouri workers' compensation insurance program.