Home Truck News Continuous safety training key to preventing forklift accidents, expert says   - Truck...

Continuous safety training key to preventing forklift accidents, expert says   – Truck News

In his 42 years of industry experience, Richard Sinclair, a technical trainer at Hangcha Forklift Canada, has seen it all.

He even testified as a witness in court cases about fatalities in forklift-related incidents. He has seen a foreman sticking his head out of a forklift to yell at a truck driver who got his head struck by a moving truck.

“He [saw that a truck] was going fast enough, and he was gonna give crap to the driver. Well, he gave crap, alright. He died,” Sinclair recalls. He also remembers seeing a forklift operator getting off a forklift while it was still running, leading to the machine running over the operator’s foot, causing injury.

Sinclair has seen employees pressing charges against negligent managers who forced them to work in unsafe conditions, too. In one case, an operator’s hand got stuck in a motor. In another, an employer’s negligence led to a man dying while working on a forklift.

Richard Sinclair's Headshot
Richard Sinclair (Photo: Supplied)

“One of my guys [that] I used to train; he wanted a job. So, he went to this chemical company,” Sinclair recalls. “He says, ‘Rick, I’m really scared. I’m working there, and he doesn’t let me use the right tools. He’s pushing me.’ I said, ‘Take your time. It is dangerous working on a forklift.’ So, they made them get onto a Raymond forklift with a bunch of masts. ‘You’re going to replace those hoses, at that step ladder up, on the thing, not tied, not proper equipment.’ They give him the steel piece to brace in between sections. The thing came down, and he died there.”

Under OHSA, when cases like this – both injuries and fatalities – happen, employers can be fined up to $500,000 per person or $2 million for a corporation and/or be imprisoned for up to a year.

According to the latest data from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), 2,171 loss-time injuries and seven fatalities involving plant and industrial-powered vehicles and tractors were recorded across the country in 2022. Of those, almost 700 cases (32%) and two fatalities happened in Ontario, with Quebec and British Columbia not too far down the list.

According to AWCBC, some of the most common injuries amongst employees in transport, equipment operators, and related occupations in the transportation and warehousing sectors were traumatic injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, nerves, spinal cord, and more.

The chart shows the amount and breakdown of time loss claims in Canada in 2022
(Photo: AWCBC)

But nine out of 10 forklift-related accidents in the warehouse, at the dock, or in the yard can be prevented by sticking to proper safety protocols and not cutting corners, Sinclair told TruckNews.com in an interview dedicated to a 2024 National Forklift Safety Day.

It’s taking place on June 11 and is hosted by the Industrial Truck Association, which represents industry manufacturers of lift trucks, tow tractors, hand-pallet trucks, and automated guided vehicles throughout North America.

Reflecting on decades of experience, Sinclair attributes most incidents to lack of safety adherence and rushing to get the job done. He shared tips for lift trucks operators, warehouse managers, and truck drivers – those operating built-in Moffett forklifts and those delivering loads to the docks – that will help enhance safety and prevent accidents.

“Every accident is preventable. [If it happens], you did something wrong. You didn’t do your maintenance, or you went too fast, or you cut corners. Every accident is preventable [unless] you didn’t follow the law somewhere. You didn’t do something right.”

The chart shows the amount of fatalities in workplace breakdown by occupation in Canada in 2022
(Photo: AWCBC)

To those who skip steps to increase productivity, he says that when everyone knows their job and does it properly, there is no need to rush as the operations function properly and on time as is. Cutting corners, creating hazards, and dealing with fatalities and injuries are, in fact, productivity’s enemies.

Onboarding safety training, refreshment courses

When new operators get hired straight out of training, it is important to do the onboarding training and test their knowledge, Sinclair says, referring to the fact that some training academies do not provide proper training. The most common mistake he sees in newbies is neglecting basic safety, like not wearing belts or getting in and out of the forklift the wrong way.

At Hangcha Forklift Canada, operator onboarding is recommended to last two days. He says on top of written tests newcomers are asked to load and unload in front of the trainer, and they are asked to inspect the forklift, the load, and operators are often given ‘trick loads’, too. Those might be off-center loads, boxes falling apart or not strapped properly, unbalanced loads, and other hazards that can lead to accidents, including forklift rollovers.

“We see if they even try to pick it up,” says Sinclair, adding that learning on the “worst loads” to deal with is most effective.  

He also adds that employees have to be trained on what to do in case the accident does happen. This involves knowing the action plan, being ready to assess the situation, and provide first aid if needed, as well as filling out paperwork post-accident.

Yearly refreshment training is necessary, too.

“Check the air quality. It costs nothing.”

Many overlook the process of assessing the air quality in the trailer, Sinclair says, emphasizing the importance of this aspect as lift truck operators can get dizzy and lose consciousness.

For example, all of the Hangcha products get delivered in a container from China, traveling a lengthy path all the way to Canada. So, before unloading, they put a two-foot fan on wheels inside which blows the ‘bad’ air out with high-capacity air for around 20 minutes, which also helps with lowering the temperatures and preventing workers working in the heat. 

After, the space has to be checked again with an air quality monitor. He also says air quality can be particularily an issue when transporting meat and poultry – even in reefer trailers.

Safety breach protocols

If the supervisor catches employees not following the company’s established safety rules, they can be suspended from work for a day without pay, Sinclair says, adding this is an effective way to teach the importance of safety to employees. He also says that lunch breaks at Hangcha are mandatory for employees.

“Some say, ‘I won’t take lunch [and] I’m going to finish early.’ This is the issue we’re having today [in the industry],” he says. “This is a no-no because then you’re weak. You’re not productive. You’re not being safe now. You’re losing your energy.”

Richard Sinclair Workshop image
Richard Sinclair’s workshop (Photo: Hangcha Forklift Canada)

Employees have to agree upon other important safety-related obligations while signing the contract. This includes having enough rest before operating heavy machinery and reporting if they are feeling unwell or might be drowsy or weak because of the medications they take. Sinclair says there is always a risk that prescribed medication can interfere with one’s reflexes and concentration.

“Let’s say you got a wicked migraine. You’re taking a pill. Then no, your head’s not there. You can’t operate, and we have in our [contract], you’re supposed to say, ‘I’m on medication.’” This relates to any other medication that has a sedative effect, like Ativan, for one, that is known to reduce anxiety and is also prescribed to people with hypertension. The same rule should be applied to marijuana use, he adds.

Truckers’ responsibilities

However, following forklift-related safety protocols established in a warehouse relates to truck drivers, too.

Sinclair says that while the trailers are loaded or unloaded, the driver is supposed to be out of the truck waiting in the designated area, especially if they do not have the required safety equipment like goggles, vests, and protective footwear. Waiting outside of the truck can prevent accidents, including the truck leaving prematurely and creating a gap between the dock and trailer, causing a forklift and its operator to fall down.

To prevent this, Sinclair says the truck has to be off at all times, the wheels have to be blocked, and dock locks installed. He adds that no work should be performed on the truck or trailer while loading or unloading is in process. “Often, you’ll see in warehouses that they’re trying to repair the tire as they’re loading the trucks. That’s a major no-no.”

Mounted forklifts

But trucker’s responsibilities do not end there, especially for those who operate forklifts mounted to their trucks, like Moffetts. Sinclair says those tend to be the most poorly maintained trucks as the challenge lies in such trucks being subject to harsh conditions and demanding schedules.

Richard Sinclair Workshop (1)
Richard Sinclair’s workshop (Photo: Hangcha Forklift Canada)

“Those skip and do one maintenance per year,” he recalls from experience, adding that the environment where these trucks operate can cause parts like cylinders and chains to wear out faster.

“Make sure that maintenance is done every 200-300 hours. Be vigilant, check for salt buildup [and] oil leaks,” Sinclair says, advising drivers to include those checks in the pre-trip inspections.

In general, he says, the safe operation of any forklift goes back to basics – using the right type of forklift suitable for the environment and following the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding use and maintenance.

When it comes to operator safety, Sinclair urges them to exercise their lawful right to refuse to perform a task if they feel they are not prepared for it or if a safe environment and proper tools or lift truck were not provided by the employer.

Credit: Source link


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