One million forklifts are currently in operation in the United States and 110,000 forklift accidents happen yearly, according to OSHA. Powered industrial truck hazards are routinely listed among OSHA’s top 10 violations. In 2016, they ranked 6th.  Many pedestrians or bystanders are injured in forklift related accidents. These injuries can occur when forklifts strike pedestrians or when pedestrians are struck by falling loads. Engineering or Administrative controls need to be implemented to protect pedestrians from these types of accidents.

How to set up Safety Measures for Pedestrians

Install Pedestrian Walkways. This type of walkway is used to separate pedestrian traffic from forklift traffic. It is one of most important ways to safely secure employees on foot as well as forklift drivers. These are created by installing taped or lighted pathways or by installing/utilizing a physical barrier called a Bollard (usually a reinforced beam or post anchored to the floor). It cannot always deflect or absorb the impact of a forklift. Make sure aisle ways and corners are not obstructed. Install convex mirrors if there is a blind aisle. To ensure forklifts are separated sufficiently from pedestrians, aisles for the forklifts in general, should be three feet wider than the widest load. However, each type of forklift has different requirements, so double check with the manufacturer’s specifications.

Engineer Facility to Separate Pedestrians from Forklifts. Reroute walkways on the other side of the building or in areas that the forklift simply doesn’t go. This will significantly reduce or eliminate the risk of an accident. Areas protected only by bollards, may be safe, but it is still possible for an accident to occur. If the walkway is rerouted or protected by a structure, the risk of accident is dramatically reduced.

Use Engineering and Administrative Controls Warning lights, signs and audible vehicular devices should be used. Driver and pedestrian education should be employed to protect everyone in these “danger zones”. Strict speed limits, right of way standards, not permitting non-essential workers into areas where vehicles are operating and requiring workers and drivers to be clear of vehicles being loaded or unloaded. If possible retrofit forklifts with governors. As a last resort, personal should carry signaling devices, like horns, to alert the driver to their presence.

Pedestrians Need Training Too

Forklift drivers are trained before they operate a forklift, but do you train the pedestrians, the order pickers, the managers, and vendors who sometimes roam your facility? Forklift drivers often do not have good visibility due to lighting conditions and forklift obstruction caused by the loads or by the forklift itself. Here are tips to protect pedestrians in a forklift environment:

  • Make yourself stand out, wear a bright color or a safety vest
  • Only used marked pedestrian lanes (if you have them)
  • Allow ample time when crossing an intersection, forklifts can’t stop quickly and their loads may spill if they do, creating another type of safety hazard,
  • Look and listen for the presence of a forklift. Do not rely solely on sound as it is not always a good indicator.
  • Never cross an intersection unless you are sure the forklift is not in the area. Make eye contact with the driver and wait for him to acknowledge you before crossing.
  • Remember that forklifts are dangerous from all sides. The rear of the truck may be more dangerous than the front, as the driver is probably concentrating on the front.
  • If you can’t see a forklift, it can’t see you. When a lift truck turns a corner, the outside end of a long load travels much faster than the inside. If you are on the outside radius of a turn the driver may think the load is heading your way slower than what it really is.