Seat Restraints and Forklift Operator Safety

Published: 02nd July 2010
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Being struck by the guards of the rollover protection cage is the largest cause of fatal injuries in forklift rollover incidents. This is largely because of drivers not putting on seatbelts while operating a lift truck, according the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

When compared to an automobile, not fastening a seatbelt in a forklift exposes the operator to a greater danger of injuries although forklifts move at rates of speed usually far lower than automobiles. However, the cause and effect determined by NIOSH doesn't tell the whole story.

New forklift operators, especially young workers, tend to think of forklifts as over-sized toys. However, they are not. In reality, even the smallest riding forklift is heavier than a small car or truck. Their center of gravity is also located higher. Most forklifts also usually steer by rotating a pin-mounted rear axle. This allows forklifts to turn sharp corners and work in tight spaces. However, it also reduces the effective stable base to a triangle. Therefore, even small unevenness on the driving surface or a low curb edge can cause a forklift to tip-over.

As a forklift begins to tip, the operator's first reaction is to jump away. But as we have seen, forklifts are machines with a high center of gravity and low stability. They are also heavy. Once a fork lift becomes unstable, it tends to come down extremely fast because of its heavy weight, small base of stability and high center of gravity. It is, therefore, not possible for a driver to jump clear. They invariably get caught by the rigid bars of the safety cage. The resulting injuries are often fatal.

NIOSH reports that in virtually all forklift tip-over incidences deaths occur because unrestrained drivers try to jump out of falling vehicles. The studies also show that during a rollover the safest place for the forklift driver is inside the safety cage securely strapped to the seat. Accidents by their nature are unpredictable. Forklift drivers should, therefore, without exception, fasten their seat belts at all times.

For a comprehensive selection of Forklift Training videos, kits & programs visit http://safety.1800inet.com/forklift-safety-training.

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