5 dangerous myths about forklift safety

On National Forklift Safety Day, Let’s Dispel Dangerous Myths Surrounding Forklift Safety!

Did you know June is National Safety Month? Even more importantly, June 14th is National Forklift Safety Day. Workplace safety is always a critical issue, but during June we join the NSC in their annual observance to help “keep each other safe from the workplace to anyplace”  and the Industrial Truck Association in their mission “to enhance the safety of forklift operators and those who work around forklifts.”

Focusing on forklift safety, these largely avoidable industrial accidents hurt people and families and are also costly in terms of lost productivity, lawsuits, insurance claims. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), each year nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents.

And it’s not just operators who are at risk. About 36% of forklift-related deaths are workers other than operators. Inattentive, untrained pedestrians are hit, crushed, impaled, or run over by forklifts every year. Untrained workers may assume it’s safe to, for example, stand beside a forklift, unaware that they are placing themselves in danger of being crushed should the truck tip over.

Perhaps because they are so commonplace, forklifts might seem innocuous, and some myths have grown up around some practices that you or your operators might think are "okay" or even "safe". In this blog post we’ll expose these myths and explain the reality so you can improve forklift safety in your operation and avoid the dangers.

5 dangerous myths about forklift safety

Myth #1 Driving a forklift is just like driving a car! Anyone can do it!

Forklifts are so common in many operations that people may get a little too comfortable being around them. “It’s just like driving a car!”

Reality Check

The truth is that the average forklift is about three times as heavy as a car, is slow to stop, and is more complex to operate. Forklift operator certification requires special training—way beyond driver’s ed. They’re very different from cars in other ways:

a. Use

- Cars carry people while forklifts pick up, carry, and put away heavy loads. Forklift operator training covers how to ensure loads are balanced. Operators need to know how to pick up and place a load at any height and how to do it safely.

b. Environment

- Cars operate on roads with clearly indicated speed limits and traffic control signs, but forklifts operate in environments where intersections and traffic conditions aren’t always made obvious and are often unmarked, blocked or poorly lit.

- Visibility can be an even greater issue when the truck is carrying a load.

- Speed is left to the judgment of the operator based on conditions which can vary widely from load to load, route to route, and day to day.

 c. Operation

A forklift and a car may both have four tires, an engine, and a steering wheel, but the similarities end there. The forklift is much heavier than a car, with a much longer stopping distance and a very narrow wheelbase. Forklift tires, whether pneumatic or cushion, differ from car tires. And, a forklift includes forks! These 6’ plus, pointed, heavy metal forks that carry loads are dangerous.

Forklifts also have a mast that tilts, raises and lowers loads and all the controls that govern those actions. Major pinch and crush points if you don’t know what you’re doing or don’t follow safety protocols.

Myth #2 If your forklift is tipping over, jump out!

Tip overs are the leading cause of operator fatalities because forklifts are very sensitive to imbalance. Tip overs can be caused by unbalanced loads, excessive speed, and even irregular surfaces. Many operators have learned the reality of tip over accidents the hard way. They’ve been crushed by their forklift as they tried to jump clear.

Reality Check

The safest thing to do in the event of a tip over is to stay with the vehicle, inside the operator compartment, with all appendages inside the cage. Brace yourself and lean into the direction of the tip over.

And—always wear your seatbelt!

Myth #3 It’s okay to give your buddy a ride.

The impulse to say yes to a friend who wants a ride can be tough to resist. Forklift operators may be tempted to give others a ride on the forks or let them hang onto the side. 

Reality Check

Both scenarios mentioned above represent uneven weight distribution that can quickly cause the truck to tip over. This kind of accident will likely injure or kill both the operator and passenger.

Myth #4 Once you’ve completed formal training, you can operate any forklift, anywhere.

Reality Check

Operators must be trained on the equipment that they’ll use and, in the applications that are specific to that workplace. OSHA requires two types of training:

Formal instruction is presented online, in a classroom, on videotape, or in written materials. It covers basic safety issues and best practices for daily operation of forklifts. Those who get through the training receive a certificate of completion.

In-person, equipment-specific training covers real-life applications and instruction for operating the specific equipment models used in the specific work environment.

Myth #5 Formal instruction is inconvenient and expensive.

Some individuals may shy away from the first component of training because they think they can’t afford it.

Reality Check

The formal instruction component of forklift training can cost as little as $80 and can be taken online at your convenience.

POOF! Myths dispelled! Just like magic!

Trust TrainMOR for forklift operator training

When it comes to training operators and employees on forklift operation and safety, rely on TrainMOR. Contact us for information on our Mobile, Memorable, and Measurable training courses—available online, in classroom and on-site.

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