Most formal and informal forklift training programs quickly address the most obvious hazards associated with lift truck operation: poorly maintained equipment, usage that violates manufacturer specifications, unsafe speeds, disregard for safety restraints and unsafe behavior (like allowing individuals to stand on the forks or walk underneath an elevated load). These are straightforward dangers, and most operators learn to avoid them on day one. But there are other hazards that often appear without warning, and can compromise the safety of even the most experienced operators. One of these dangers: distraction. Here are a few common and avoidable problems that can occur when operators lose focus.

Light and visibility distractions

As part of a routine safety audit, managers should investigate workspaces where the ambient light provides insufficient visibility or distracting glare. Blinking lights, lights that are too bright and low light that places a strain on operator attention are all serious problems. Forklift operators should never have to think about light levels in the workplace. The same rule applies to blind corners and obstructed views of key work areas.

Noise distractions

Just like light, noise distractions can have a serious impact on operator safety if they occur at levels that are too high or too low. Make sure forklift signals are clear and distinct from other common sounds in the workplace, and make sure they’re loud enough to be heard over ambient noise. Ear protection should not cancel out sounds that are necessary to operator safety, and sound levels should not fluctuate unexpectedly. Forklift operators should recognize all sounds in the workplace and should know which ones pertain to their task.

Pedestrian distractions

If visitors and members of the public walk freely through the workspace, operators should take full responsibility for their safety. Non-employees should not be expected to abide by or understand safety rules, and they should be granted the right of way at all times. Pedestrian behavior can be unpredictable, even in areas restricted to employees only, and if pedestrians are present, forklift speed should be kept low and under control.

Task management

Forklift operators should be required to focus on one task at a time, and deadline pressure should not rise to a level that interferes with safe operation. If employees feel rushed to complete tasks, the workload should be reduced, even if this means an increase in staff.

Environmental distractions

Forklift operation that occurs outdoors or in an unrestricted space should be managed to prevent distraction-related accidents. In an all-weather environment, forklifts should include closed and heated cabins.

For more on how to streamline the workplace and protect forklift operators from unexpected events that can compromise their safety, turn to the experts at Liftow.