Forklift safety for pedestrians. It is essential for your plant.

Jan 01 2022 | 3 Min. Read Safety

How can we protect pedestrians in the workplace from forklift accidents and injuries? Pedestrians need training too!

In even a low-speed collision, the human body is no match for a forklift.Weighing in at an average of 9,000 pounds, without a load, a forklift is three times heavier than a car and much less maneuverable.

You know the dangers forklifts pose for operators. That's why you invest in training. But were you aware of the danger they pose to pedestrians?

These vehicles operate throughout facilities where workers are going about their business, but, at times, workers forget there’s heavy equipment moving around near them. That leads to pedestrians being injured and even killed in forklift-related accidents. Injuries and fatalities occur when forklifts strike pedestrians or when pedestrians are struck by falling loads. About 18% of fatalities in forklift-related accidents between 1980 and 1994 were pedestrians. [1]

No plant manager wants anyone injured or worse. Besides the human toll, these accidents can lead to expensive and disruptive lawsuits, compensation claims, and more. While OSHA is clear about its requirements for operator training, it's silent on the issue of training pedestrians.  Here are suggestions for managing these hazards:


 Forklift operators must be aware of workplace conditions, including pedestrian traffic.

     When a person or group walks across the route, the operator should:


   Wait until they pass by.

Proceed cautiously through congested areas.

     Think ahead. If an area is cluttered, the operator should walk the route first to spot problems. Also, he or she should:

   Use a spotter when needed.

   Ask pedestrians to move if there is not sufficient safe clearance.

Sound the horn or other alarm at blind corners, doorways and aisles and when backing up.


Here are some reminders that can keep pedestrians safe:

     Forklifts can’t stop quickly. They are designed to minimize load damage and maintain stability, so they stop slowly.

     Forklifts are heavy. Stand clear when they’re in operation.

     The driver may not be able to see you.

     Forklifts have a wide rear swing radius. Stay out of the way.

   Use pedestrian walkways or stay to one side of the equipment aisle.

   Never ride on a forklift, unless authorized and the forklift is designed for riders.

     Don’t pass under an elevated load.


Per OSHA, aisles and passageways must be free of obstructions and marked where mechanical equipment is used. [29 CFR 1910.176(a)]  The following can help compliance and make your facility safer:

     Consider separating pedestrians from lift trucks by providing:


   Permanent railings or other protective barriers

   Adequate walking space on one side if pedestrians must use equipment aisles.

   Floors marked with walkway striping where barriers cannot be used.

     Install convex mirrors at blind aisle intersections.

     Restrict use of forklifts near time clocks, break rooms, cafeterias, and main exits, especially during peak times like the end of a shift or breaks.

     Install barriers so workstations are isolated from aisles traveled by forklifts.

     Post plant speed limits and traffic control signs.

     Invest in equipment with good warning systems. (Blue lights signal in front of and behind a forklift. Side warning lights create a bright line alongside a forklift, indicating to pedestrians to keep their distance.)

TrainMOR offers mobile, memorable, and measurable comprehensive training for forklift operators. Take advantage of our classroom and online offerings or our train-the-trainer option. Companies shouldn’t forget pedestrians in their facilities. Training them about the hazards in the work environment is a foundation of a successful safety program.

[1] Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts, CDC DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2001-109, 2001


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