Forklifts are useful pieces of equipment in many industries, most commonly used in warehouses and distribution centers in Tennessee and across the country. Although they may resemble personal vehicles, they are not, and if you are unfamiliar with the critical differences, you risk putting yourself and your co-workers in danger.

If you are responsible for operating a forklift on the job, it is essential to receive thorough training, including class instruction, hands-on experience and routine evaluation of your skills. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has explicit standards for the safe handling of forklifts, and even if you have had proper training, you can always use a refresher about the most basic elements of safety.

Training and caution

Each year, about 35,000 workers require medical care for serious forklift injuries, including falls, collision injuries and crushing injuries. OSHA guidelines obligate your training supervisor to ensure you have completed the training program established for forklift safety before you are permitted to operate even the smallest machine. In fact, your training will likely include experience operating a variety of forklifts since each type your worksite uses has its own idiosyncrasies. Some elements you will practice include the following:

  • Properly loading the forks to ensure stability of the load
  • Powering the vehicle uphill and down while balancing a load
  • Maintaining control on wet surfaces
  • Maneuvering your forklift through aisles, around turns and among other vehicles
  • Avoiding situations that could result in your forklift tipping over
  • Making your forklift conspicuous, such as effectively using the horn and lights
  • Adhering to all safety procedures, such as obeying speed restrictions, wearing seatbelts and avoiding inappropriate use of the machine

Many forklift injuries are the result of poor training and negligence by the operator. A forklift is a powerful machine, weighing about three times as much as the average car. Although it moves slower than 20 mph, it can still cause catastrophic injuries if the driver is not alert and using caution during operation. Not only must you use the highest standard of care when you operate your forklift, but you must be conscious of other vehicles moving around you.

Most forklift accidents are preventable through proper training and compliance with safety rules. Nevertheless, if you do suffer injuries on the job in a forklift accident, you would do well to seek the advice of a legal professional. You will have someone to advocate for you to obtain the workers’ compensation you need and to advise you on whether you have cause for a third-party claim.