Forklift Safety: Buckle Up—And Train

Forklifts certainly look safe enough, with those sturdy rollover cages surrounding the driver’s area. But those same cages can prove deadly if drivers don’t follow safety procedures; in particular, wearing their seat belts.

The National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system found that of the 1,021 forklift-related deaths between 1980 and 1994, 22 percent were caused by forklift overturns, and another 9 percent were caused by falls from forklifts.

While seat belts can’t prevent forklift accidents, they can prevent serious injuries and save lives. Our sister website,, underscores that point with these three real accident reports:

  • An employee was using a forklift to move waste material into a large, drive-in waste Dumpster on the company’s outdoor loading dock. He’d just dumped a load and was backing out of the Dumpster when he backed off the side of the loading dock, falling just under 4 feet to the pavement below. Because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, he was thrown from the forklift and was crushed under the truck’s rollover cage. He died 9 days later.

Don’t just tell forklift operators what to do—show them with action footage on DVD in BLR’s Training Solutions Toolkit: Forklift Safety. Read More.

  • An employee was driving an unloaded forklift down a ramp with a 13 percent slope when the forklift started to tip over. The operator attempted to jump clear, and the rollover protective structure (ROP) landed on him and killed him. The employee was not wearing the supplied seat belt.
  • A forklift operator rapidly drove his truck down a ramp and appeared to be attempting to make a sharp left turn. The forklift overturned. Apparently, the employee was unaccustomed to the quickness and sharp turning radius of the new forklift. He was also not wearing the provided seat belt, and when he fell from the seat, his head was caught under the overhead protective cage.

 Getting operators to wear their seat belts

Some common complaints from operators are that the seat belts are restricting and that it’s easy to forget to put the belt on when they have to get in and out of a truck a lot. You are likely to hear the same kinds of excuses you get from employees who fail to use other kinds of required PPE, so you might try using the same type of approach when combating those objections. For example:

  • Tell forklift operators that they’re required to use seat belts, and enforce your policy the way you do all your other safety rules.
  • Recount stories like the ones above, and if you can, use pictures of one of these accidents. Some employees may scoff, but that ugly picture is going to stick with them somewhere in the back of their minds—and it might just make them snap on the belt.
  • Remind them that no matter how much a nuisance wearing a seat belt might be, it’s worth it to ensure that they can go home to their families and friends safe and sound.

Forklift Training Requirements

Getting forklift drivers to wear seat belts is just one small piece of the forklift safety puzzle. OSHA requires all employees to successfully complete a training program before operating a forklift or other powered industrial truck.

Employers must provide refresher training and an evaluation of the effectiveness of that training when the employee operates the vehicle in an unsafe manner, has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident, is assigned to drive a different kind of truck, or there are changes in workplace conditions that could affect safe operation of the truck.

BLR’s Training Solutions Toolkit: Forklift Safety on DVD comes to you satisfaction assured! Get the details.

So how do you train your employees in a way that the information sticks with the operators of these potentially deadly vehicles? We think BLR’s Training Solutions Toolkit: Forklift Safety has a giant leg up on the competition. This DVD-based kit is really a mini-motion picture, complete with professional actors and a realistic script. It trains on all the essential points and also includes all these supplementary materials:

-15 copies of an employee workbook and accompanying leader’s guide that confirms and extends the learning. Additional copies may be ordered at special low prices.
-3 posters. Hang them around your facility as a constant reminder of the training. (And note the pleased expression on any OSHA inspector who happens to see them.)
-Trainer’s log. Creates a permanent record of whom you trained and when—another must-have if your facility is inspected.
-Customizable completion certificate. Just add each trainee’s name and other company specifics and print out.
-A complete bonus PowerPoint® forklift training program. This 30-slide PowerPoint, with accompanying slide show notes and takeaway booklets, allows you an alternative way to train, and lets you customize your training with specific company policies and situations and add your comments as you present the material.

Training Solutions Toolkit: Forklift Safety is available for a no-cost, no-risk trial at your workplace. We’ll be happy to arrange it for you.