This blog is part two of a two part series addressing the injuries caused by power lift trucks in the workplace and how employers can prevent them. You can read Part 1 here.
Pursuant to OSHA, all industrial lift truck operators in New Jersey must be licensed. This involves taking a formal training course from a certified lift truck trainer. Next, the applicant must take and pass a written test, and satisfactorily perform a driving test under actual conditions in the plant or warehouse where employed. After becoming licensed, OSHA requires the operator, every three years, to be re-evaluated by a certified trainer in order to keep the license current.
Over and above maintaining a current license, because material handling and storage operations involve different types of attachments affixed to the lift truck, such as forks, clamps, and buckets, in New Jersey, employers must provide training to newly hired operators if the lifting attachment differs from that which the operator had used on his previous job.
Further, in the event of an accident involving an industrial lift truck, with or without personal injury, the employer is required to file, within thirty days, a report with OSHA, and also the operator involved is required to take a refresher course, including a performance evaluation even if it the accident is within the three year certification period.
In addition to requiring current certifications, and safety training for its operators, OSHA requires plant owners to post appropriate traffic safety signs and paint yellow lines on the floor in the plant, delineating pedestrian walkways, high concentrations of lift truck traffic, and machine operator workstations which abut lift truck aisle ways.
Although OSHA and The National Safety Counsel do not have the power to pass laws governing the safe design of off road powered lift trucks, such as forklifts, safety authorities, such as the American National Safety Institute (ANSI) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) have promulgated recommended several safety features for forklifts, such as audible back up alarms and strobe lights which serve to alert pedestrians, in a noisy plant environment, to the presence of an approaching lift truck.
Unfortunately, in my thirty-six years of handling workplace injury cases associated with warehousing, material handling, and storage, the most common cause of injuries to operators and pedestrians is not due to the design of the lift truck, but rather accidents are usually caused by excessive production demands the employer places on the operator. A second cause is the overcrowding of the floor space, by storing products too high off the ground, or storing product which completely blocks aisle ways, thus forcing pedestrians to walk too close to forklift traffic.