Manufacture a Safe Environment: Forklift Safety

Overturns are the leading causes of workplace fatalities involving forklifts.

Overturns are the leading causes of workplace fatalities involving forklifts.

Many industries use powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, to lift and transport materials. This equipment is crucial to accomplishing labor-intensive tasks. Forklifts help workers move materials with ease and reduce the need to manhandle materials, particularly in the construction and manufacturing industries. Even though they help ease the workload and can reduce strain injuries, forklifts present some other safety hazards for employees.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift overturns are the leading causes of fatalities involving forklifts, representing about 25 percent of all forklift-related deaths. Forklifts move quickly and can pose a hazard to those operating or working around them. It’s important to remain vigilant of your surroundings and to adhere to proper safety protocols, no matter if you are directly involved in the operation or not.

When working around a forklift:
• Pay attention, and stay clear when a forklift is in motion.
• Work in designated pedestrian areas only.
• Avoid taking shortcuts through traffic areas.
• Let the forklift operator know when you are working in the area.
• Never engage in horseplay around a forklift.
• Do not help move unstable loads; if the load falls, you could be seriously injured.
• Do not get too close to an operating forklift; you could get caught between it or under it.

When operating a forklift:
• You and your employer are responsible for the safe and proper use of the equipment.
• Read the manufacturer’s instructions before operating or performing maintenance on the equipment.
• Ensure the audio and visual backup signals are working properly.
• Wear a seat belt.
• Inspect the tires and brakes before each use.
• Always be aware of the forklift’s capacity, and never exceed the limit.
• Always set the parking brake and place the fork tips on the ground when not in use.
• When the forklift is in motion, the forks should be in the lowest possible position.
• Forklifts should not be used to lift people or as elevated work platforms.

Employers should be keenly aware of safety and legal guidelines for the use of forklifts and be able to effectively communicate them to employees. It is illegal for people under the age of 18 or anyone over 18 who is not properly trained and certified to operate a forklift. Safety guidelines should be posted at the worksite, and safety training should be mandatory for all employees if a forklift is used onsite.

Additional safety guidelines for the use of forklifts include:
• The operator should be the only person on the forklift.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Listen for horns, and look for flashing lights.
• Never walk or stand under an elevated load.
• Be careful even when the forklift is not in motion. Do not trip over the forks when a forklift is lowered.
• Use the forklift to lift material, not people.
• Do not walk too close to an operating forklift; you could get caught between it or under it.

As always, communication is imperative to any company’s safety program. Employees should be encouraged to report safety hazards, whether they are equipment or personnel related. New employees should be trained, and current employees should receive continuous training to ensure everyone knows that safety is a priority.

The Business Case for Safety

MoneytrendWhen money gets tight, workplace safety is often one of the first things stricken from strapped budgets. Unfortunately, employers who cut back on safety training, personal protective equipment and safety performance rewards may see a drop in the level of service their employees provide.

A recent article in EHS Today gave an overview of a new study published by the National Safety Council (NSC). The study examined utility company work groups that were responsible for customer-related functions. Work units that had more employee injuries also had customers who were less satisfied with the service they received.

“In an organization with a positive safety climate, where safety does not take a back seat to productivity, employees are likely to believe they have permission to do things right,” the study noted. “Doing things right is a permeating value in a work unit that is likely to reach into several domains of work behavior, some of which influence the quality of work.”

The NSC study bolsters the business case for safety. If you’re still not convinced, consider the other benefits of preventing workplace accidents.

Protection for your most valuable asset. Your employees’ well-being is the most important reason to commit to safety. An investment in safety is an investment in your most valuable asset: your employees.

Reduced workers’ comp costs. Workers’ comp premiums are based largely on your experience modifier, which is based largely on your accident history. By preventing accidents, you can help reduce your premiums.

Increased productivity. Replacing an employee can cost 50 to 150 percent of his or her salary. By preventing accidents and keeping experienced employees on the job, you can increase your productivity and reduce the costs of hiring extra help.
Improved morale. This one is closely related to the NSC study findings. When employees feel you care about their well-being, they are more likely to invest in the company and its mission.

Company image. No company wants to be known for on-the-job injuries. Some of your peers may not want to do business with you if you have a high injury rate. Still others may be prohibited from doing business with you due to company policies or government regulations.

600 percent return. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that employers who commit to workplace safety may reap up to a 600 percent return on their investments.

Indirect costs account for the majority of costs associated with workplace accidents. Essentially, indirect costs are costs that your workers’ comp policy does not cover. We’ll dive into direct and indirect costs a little deeper in a future blog post. In the meantime, review this short presentation developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Abbott and Georgetown University.

5 Tips for Managing Your Claims

Handcuff FraudIf you’ve been following this blog, you know that accidents are not an inevitable consequence of doing business. By investing in training, personal protective equipment and other safety tools, you can reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries. But when accidents do occur, they carry human and monetary costs. If you follow these claim management tips, you can reduce those costs for your business, your injured workers and their families.

Tip 1. Report injuries promptly

If one of your employees gets injured on the job, notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Prompt injury reporting can help control medical costs and improve claim outcomes. The sooner your insurance carrier finds out about an injury, the sooner they can start helping the employee get well and back on the job.

Tip 2. Launch a return-to-work program

Experienced workers are more valuable when they are on the job, not sitting at home unnecessarily. A return-to-work (rtw) program can help minimize the consequences of workplace injuries.

The goal of the rtw program is to help injured workers recover and return to productive employment as soon as medically reasonable.

More information about rtw is available on TDI’s website Texas Mutual also offers free rtw tools on its website.

Tip 3. Fight workers’ comp fraud

Most claims are legitimate, and most injured workers want to recover and return to work. Sometimes, however, people try to cheat the system. When they do, they take money out of their employers’ pockets.

Fraud costs the workers’ comp system $7.2 billion a year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Those costs trickle down to everyone in the form of higher premiums.

To learn how you can help fight workers’ comp fraud, visit TDI’s fraud unit and Texas Mutual’s fraud-fighting section.

Tip 4. Stay in the loop

Ask your insurance company if it offers online claim-monitoring tools. For example, Texas Mutual policyholders can access adjusters’ notes, review benefit payments and sign up for automatic alerts about significant changes in their claims.

Tip 5. Understand subrogation

If a third party contributed to an on-the-job accident, your insurance company may be able to recover some or all of the costs from the third party. The process is called subrogation, and it can help reduce your claim costs and your premium.

Most subrogation recoveries involve vehicles, products or premises. You can facilitate the subrogation process if you know what to look for.

For more information about safety and claims, as well as workers’ comp fraud, register for a free Texas Mutual workshop.

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