Forklift operator training isn’t just about the drivers operating safely it’s also about being aware of what’s going on in their environment.
Pedestrians, not just people on the street and customers, but employees of the business as well.
YOU need to be alert!
When I am testing operators on the forklifts during my forklift operator training courses, I like to observe what is going on throughout the warehouse, plant or in the yard. I like to see how all the workers do their jobs and how they operate day to day; particularly when they are not aware I’m watching them.
When I’m conducting forklift operator training courses I often see things that make me cringe.
I see pedestrians walk up to an operator on a lift truck wanting to speak to them.
They just saunter up oblivious to the possible dangers. It amazes me. I often wonder how they have survived this long without injury or death for that matter. They don’t realize the danger.
You would never just walk up to a moving car. Why on earth would you approach a moving object that weighs a great deal more than a car?
When I’m doing forklift operator training I have even seen pedestrians walk up to the operator during the forklift practical test!
When the forklift is in motion, often the operator doesn’t even know the person is there until the last second when the pedestrian calls out to them.
Operators are so focused on their load they forget everything around them. Operators often assume no one is there.
At times forklift operators do not check their rear before backing up (another pet peeve of mine).
You wouldn’t back your car up without looking first, at least I hope not!
Never assume no one is around!!!
When I’m teaching forklift operator training I like to stress these points in my classes.
Pedestrians need to keep this in mind. They must be sure they have the forklift operator’s attention long before they get close to the forklift. They should be wearing high visibility apparel meeting at least Type 3 criteria of the WorkSafe standards. This can be in the form of a vest, jacket, coveralls or t-shirts.
If the pedestrian and operator are going to have a conversation, the operator needs to put the forklift in neutral, park brake on and lower the forks. The operator is to ensure the forklift is stationary and isn’t going anywhere!
Accidents can happen so fast when it comes to forklifts. It only takes a split second for something to go wrong.
I’m not just saying people who want to have conversations with the forklift operator are to be wary, all workers wondering around worksites or in warehouses etc. must be aware of the forklifts!
Here are a few helpful hints for pedestrians:
- Wear high visibility gear while working near Lift Trucks
- Be sure you make eye contact with the forklift operator, indicating you would like to approach the forklift.
- Get acknowledgement from operator before continuing on
- Forklifts should have the right of way
- Don’t assume the forklift operator sees you
- Use crosswalks whenever possible
- Stick to walkways
- Stay clear of danger zones and always use caution when you are in the vicinity
- Exercise caution around blind corners, around tall objects and at all intersections
- Be aware of forks and tail end swing of the forklift during a turn
- Forklift operators often have limited vision, due to the lift truck’s mast, chains and cables
- Modifications and attachments on the Lift Truck can create serious visibility problems for the driver
- Pedestrians can move in and out of the operator’s view in seconds
- Most pedestrian fatalities occur when the driver’s vision is at its worse
- Drivers are focusing on their load, not pedestrians coming out of no where
- Bright or blinding lights, diminishing light, rain, snow or dust in the air can limit a driver’s vision
- Night driving creates poor visibility. Be sure the forklift’s lights are in good working condition and you are wearing high visibility gear.
- It’s not always easy to hear a forklift coming; they can be almost silent when coasting
- Other times there can be a lot of noise in the environment which could limit the operator hearing you or the pedestrian hearing the forklift.
- Mechanical failures can occur. Brakes could fail; hydraulics too, which could cause the driver to lose the load.
- The heavier the load the lift truck carries, the longer it takes for the lift truck to stop.
- If you have a run in with the forklift, it will hurt you more than it will the lift truck.
I always reinforce these points during my forklift operator training courses. I like to mention how pedestrians almost seem oblivious or too complacent around the forklifts.
Live long and prosper!!!