Forklift Pedestrian Safety

Forklift Pedestrian Safety

A warehouse is like a city. The aisles are its roadways, and the racking, its buildings. And just like in a city, rules must be followed in order to keep everyone safe and operations running smoothly.

One of the primary difficulties in a warehouse is creating a safe environment for forklift operators and pedestrians to coexist in. The two work at separate paces in a different rhythm making it easy for one to overlook the needs of the other. In order for a warehouse or distribution center to maximize safety, both pedestrians and forklift operators must follow a clear set of guidelines. It is not enough to simply “watch out.”

Consider the Data

OSHA reports suggest that over 10% of forklifts in the United States will be involved in an accident over the course of the year. Nearly 35,000 of those accidents will result in serious injury, and 85 will result in a fatality. At least 10% of forklift related injuries result from a pedestrian being struck or run over by a forklift. The good news? 70% of all these accidents can be avoided with proper training and enforced safety policies.

Safety for Forklift Operators

Perhaps bearing the greatest weight of responsibility, Forklift Operators must constantly be aware of their surroundings in the warehouse or distribution center. Though a complete list of forklift safety measures could go on for pages, here are the top regulations for forklift operators to follow in order to keep pedestrians in the workplace safe:
  • Give Warning at Intersections

    Slow down, stop, and sound the horn at intersections, corners, and wherever vision may be obstructed. This alerts other forklift operators and pedestrians that the operator is coming and diminishes the chance for collision.

  • Reverse Responsibly

    If available, use a flashing warning light or backup alarms when reversing a forklift.

  • Always Maintain a Clear Line of Vision

    Do not advance or reverse a lift truck without a clear view of travel. It is easy to ignore this precaution in the moment, but without a clear line of vision, an operator can collide with a pedestrian, another piece of equipment, or items that have been left on the floor.

  • Beware of Blind Spots

    Use a spotter when there is a blind spot. The industry’s best forklifts are designed to minimize blind spots; nonetheless, operators will encounter them on occasion. In such a case, another individual should direct the operator until full vision is regained.

  • Look for Eye Contact

    Make eye contact with pedestrians or other operators when possible. When eye contact is made, an operator can be certain that the other individual is aware of the forklift.

  • Give Pedestrians the Right of Way

    Always give pedestrians the right of way. By choosing to stop, operators gain control of the situation rather than leaving it to chance that the pedestrian will stop. Operators should slow to a stop, wait for the pedestrian to move totally out of the line of travel, and then proceed with caution.

  • Walk Your Route

    In cluttered areas, first walk the route and clear away any obstructions. If pedestrians are in the line of travel, ask them to move before proceeding.

  • Be Vigilant with Lifted Loads

    NEVER allow anyone to stand or pass under a lifted load.

Safety for Pedestrians

Though it would be easy to place responsibility solely into the hands of forklift operators, safety must always begin with the individual. Staying alert is the greatest safety measure a pedestrian can take in the warehouse.
  • Be Aware

    Always be aware of the surroundings. The more a pedestrian is aware of, the lesser chance there is an accident will occur.

  • Stand Clear

    Stand clear of forklifts in operation. Once pedestrians are aware a forklift is being operated, it becomes their responsibility to remain a safe distance away from the equipment.

  • Understand the Equipment

    Understand how forklifts operate. Forklifts are not meant to stop suddenly; they are designed to slow to a halt to minimize load damage and maintain stability. Forklifts also have a wide swing radius.

  • Stay Away from Lifted Loads

    Never stand or pass under and elevated load.

  • Never Hitch a Ride

    Never hitch a ride on a forklift unless there is a designated passenger seat. Because of the industry focus of a forklift, the design does not typically allow for passengers. Pedestrians attempting to ride on a forklift place themselves at heightened risk for serious injury.

  • Stay on Pedestrian Walkways and Safety Zones

    Use pedestrian walkways when available. This is the best way for pedestrians to stay safe in a warehouse or distribution center. In aisles, where walkways are not typically present, keep to one side so a forklift can easily pass should it be traveling in the same aisle.

Safety for Managers

Safety in the warehouse begins with an operation’s management team. It is the responsibility of those in charge to create a safe environment for pedestrians and forklift operators alike.
  • Keep It Clean

    Maintain obstruction free passageways and clean floors.

  • Designate Operation Zones

    Clearly mark areas where equipment may be in use. Many operations choose to designate forklift operation zones by painting the floor a certain color or by marking the perimeter the area.

  • Decrease Blind Spots

    Install convex mirrors at blind aisle intersections. This will increase the operator’s line of vision and diminish the need for blind spot assistance.

  • Clearly Post Traffic Regulations

    Post traffic control signs and speed limits throughout the forklift operation area and enforce the regulations presented on them. If the speed limit is designated as 10mph, have disciplinary measures in place for operators who drive above that.

  • Keep Forklifts Out of Pedestrian Heavy Areas

    Restrict the use of forklifts near time clocks, break rooms, main exits, and other areas where there is significant foot traffic

  • Install Pedestrian Walkways

    Separate pedestrians and forklifts as much as possible with pedestrian walkways secure with railings, barriers, or striping. Be sure to leave adequate walking space in aisles so there is plenty of room of a pedestrian to walk and a forklift to pass.

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Safety Starts with You

Keep your forklift operators and pedestrians from becoming another statistic by following the guidelines above. Safety can only be maximized when all parties choose to participate in prioritizing the well being of their coworkers and themselves, and as safety is maximized, productivity and growth will follow. Post these instructions around your warehouse or distribution center so workers can be reminded on a regular basis. Remember, safety starts with you.


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