Sometimes even the safest, newest, most well-maintained, top-of-the-line forklifts can still become implicated in accidents and worker injuries. And sometimes even well-trained, conscientious, experienced workers can find themselves losing control or being blindsided while in motion or while backing up. Not every accident results from overloaded forks, high speeds, irresponsible behavior or defective equipment. While conducting safety audits and working to prevent accidents, operations managers should take the entire workplace environment into account. Keep these broad considerations in mind.
A wet floor or wet entryway during inclement weather can alter what would otherwise have been an impeccably safe workplace. Cold conditions, poor lighting, blind corners and steep inclines can all lead to accidents and can require specialized training for operators, even those with years of experience in less challenging environments. Under these conditions, all employees should use available safety features, like restraints and signaling lights, even when they think they don’t need them.
Far too often, avoidable accidents, collisions and overloaded lifts result from pressures placed on frazzled employees. If quotas are unrealistically high or deadlines are impractical and unreasonable, employees will typically compromise safety measures and engage in careless behavior in order to comply. Take a close look at the culture in your workplace and the demands placed on employees. Do these demands conflict with safe operational practices? If so, then one of the two will have to change. And since safe practices are non-negotiable, you’ll need to reduce employee pressures.
In a toxic, unsafe workplace, managers expect employees to follow safe practices, but they neglect to do the same. Employees can’t trust each other to put safety first. Reckless and careless behavior is allowed or even condoned, incident reports go unfiled or unexamined, warnings and safety notices are not visible and audits are conducted rarely, if at all. Communication is weak, rules are unfairly enforced, training is lax, pay is low and relationships are frayed or non-existent. This kind of culture is unpleasant, which can lead to high turnover and poor employee loyalty. But worse, it’s dangerous. Take the time to assess the strength of your culture using formal and informal surveys, and encourage your employees to submit complaints without fear of reprisal.
Safety measures must be implementable
If your safety program relies on audible signaling, but your ambient noise levels are too high for these signals to be heard, that’s a problem. If your safety standards are high, but they’re unattainable and they demand more time or skill than employees can deliver, that’s also a problem. If you have a complaint box, but managers never empty it or read the complaints, then your safety measures are well meaning, but insufficient.
For more on how to keep your work environment safe—including your workplace culture—turn to the experts at Liftow.