Preventing Forklift Accidents

There are several types of forklifts that can be used on construction sites. They include stand-up riders for use in narrow aisles, sit-down riders, motorized hand pallet jacks and rough terrain forklift trucks.

About 100 workers are killed each year as a result of forklift accidents. Overturning causes nearly one quarter of these fatalities. Other common forklift accidents include workers being struck by materials on forklifts or by the forklift itself, and workers falling from a forklift.

Unfortunately, those who operate forklifts day in and day out have a tendency to take short cuts and ignore basic safety rules. Their attitude says, “It can’t happen to me.”

Some factors to consider when driving a forklift include:

  • Know the capacity of the forklift you are driving. Make sure it can handle the size and weight of your load.
  • Determine if the load you are carrying has any odd characteristics, and plan ahead on how to handle them. Examples include loads that are top heavy, cylindrical or awkward.
  • Know the condition of the forklift. Are the forks damaged, or is there some other problem that could cause an accident? If so, don’t use the forklift until it’s repaired.
  • Determine the path you will be traveling with the forklift. Be aware of obstacles, bumps, ramps, people, cross aisles and narrow passageways.

When operating a forklift, keep the following safety guidelines in mind:

  • Operate the forklift only if you’ve been trained.
  • Maintain a safe following distance from other forklifts – about three vehicle lengths.
  • Follow speed limits and other regulations.
  • Drive with your load low – six or eight inches off the ground – and tilted slightly back.
  • Exercise extra caution when driving over duckboards and bridge plates, and make sure your load is within their capacity as well.
  • Raise and lower your load only when your forklift is completely stopped.
  • Stop and sound the horn at intersections.
  • Avoid sharp turns.
  • Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle.
  • Wear a hard hat and other protective equipment when necessary.
  • Be sure your load is stable and secure.
  • When leaving the forklift for any reason or any length of time, lower the forks, neutralize the controls, shut off the engine and set the brakes.

OSHA has two educational documents on forklift safety. The first is “Operating the Forklift: Load Handling,” and the second is “Operating the Forklift: Traveling & Maneuvering.” Both have good information that can help you safely operate your forklift.

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Danger – Eye Protection Required

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20,000 workplace eye injuries happen each year. These injuries range from simple eye strain to severe trauma that can cause permanent damage, partial vision loss or blindness. Many of these injuries could have been prevented if the worker had used proper protective eyewear and followed appropriate safety measures.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has identified five major dangers to your eyes. They include:

  • Impact – flying objects and particles;
  • Heat – anything that gives off dangerous heat;
  • Chemicals – flashes, fumes and vapors;
  • Dust – otherwise harmless particulates that can damage sensitive eyes; and
  • Optical radiation – everything from simple glare to intense light.

There are three things you can do to help prevent eye injury:

  1. Know the eye hazards at your worksite.
  2. When possible, eliminate the hazards before starting work. Use machine guarding, work screens or other engineering controls.
  3. Use the proper eye protection. Anyone working in or passing through areas that pose eye hazards should wear protective eyewear.

Ensure your safety glasses fit properly. According to OSHA Standard 1926.102, your safety glasses should meet the following requirements:

  • Provide adequate protection against the particular hazards for which they are designed.
  • Be reasonably comfortable when worn under the designated conditions.
  • Fit snugly and not unduly interfere with your movements.
  • Be durable and capable of being disinfected.
  • Be easily cleaned.

Clean your safety glasses daily, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Store them in a case when they are not being worn. Replace glasses that are scratched, pitted, broken, bent or ill-fitting.

Use only safety glasses that are manufactured to meet the American National Standards Institute’s Z87.1 Eye and Face Protection Standard.

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Drugs, Alcohol and Construction Don’t Mix

Alcohol and drug use among employees and their family members can be an expensive problem for any industry.

The impact of alcoholism and drug dependence in the workplace generally focuses on four major areas: premature death and fatal accidents; injuries and accident rates; absenteeism; and loss of productivity. Other problem areas include tardiness, sleeping on the job, poor decision making, loss of efficiency, theft, workplace morale, high turnover and more. In addition, family members living with someone’s alcoholism or drug use may also suffer significant job performance related problems, including absenteeism, lack of focus, increased health-related problems and use of health insurance.

There is a certain level of danger associated with any construction job site. Because we don’t want to add to the danger, it’s important to establish guidelines and consequences for substance abuse and help employees follow those guidelines.

Coworkers are often reluctant to let management know when they suspect drug or alcohol activity. They are concerned that any coworkers they identify will be penalized or even lose their jobs. The reality is that the abuser is placed in far greater jeopardy when this information is not reported. Silence helps to foster opportunities for hazards and continued drug use to exist. Below are three suggestions on how to deal with this type of situation:

  • Don’t be an enabler. When you cover up for substance abusers, lend them money or help conceal poor work performance, you are protecting them from the consequences of their behavior and making it possible for them to continue using drugs or alcohol.
  • Don’t look the other way. If you suspect drugs are being used or sold on your worksite, report it to your supervisor. Contacts are normally confidential and anonymous.
  • Don’t intervene on your own. Drug abuse and drug dealing are serious problems, and qualified professionals should handle them.

Cooperation is the key to dealing with substance abuse in the workplace. Employers and employees alike have a role to play. We must all recognize our roles and carry out our responsibilities. We must ensure:

  1. A comprehensive drug-free policy is in place.
  2. Employees are educated regarding the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.
  3. Supervisors are trained to recognize such abuse.
  4. Employees are periodically tested.
  5. Assistance is available for employees who require help.

Download the recording form here.

Fighting Fatigue

Fatigue is the condition of being physically or mentally tired or exhausted. Extreme fatigue can lead to uncontrolled and involuntary shutdown of the brain, which can be extremely dangerous on a construction site. Research has shown that:

  • 17 hours of continuously being awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .05;
  • 21 hours of continuously being awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .08 (the legal limit in Indiana); and
  • 24-25 hours of continuously being awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .10.

These statistics show that when you are fatigued it is very likely that you will make errors in judgement. Your mind and eyes can be off task, and you can make a critical error.

A sleep-impaired worker may also experience lack of manual dexterity and alertness. The drowsiness associated with sleep deprivation can jeopardize safety when working with machinery, at heights and certainly while driving vehicles. Sleep-impaired workers may be more irritable and might take more risks than they would if they were rested. Research has also proven that workers are far more likely to forget rote tasks when they are deprived of sleep on a regular basis.

Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Don’t sleep in on your days off. Maintain your workday sleep schedule.
  • Wind down before going to bed. Experts recommend that you establish a regular relaxing routine to transition between waking and sleeping. Soak in a hot tub or read a book before retiring. This can greatly improve your quality of sleep. Make your bedroom sleep friendly by making it a dark, quiet, cool and comfortable place.
  • Use your bed for sleeping. Watching television or working on a computer can impede your ability to truly relax when it’s time to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
  • Allow enough time for sleep. Before you protest and say you would if you could, consider that people who get enough sleep are significantly more productive during their waking hours than people who are sleep deprived.
  • Nap when possible. A 20-minute nap (no more) followed by exercise will make you feel refreshed and provide a pick-me-up that will make you more productive.
  • Exercise regularly and complete your workout a few hours before bedtime.
  • Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime.

Remember, the treatment for sleepiness and fatigue is sleep. A rested worker is more alert and focused, and is likely to be more productive and work safely.

Download the recording form here.

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If you’re looking for innovative ways to gain better control of rising health care costs and give your employees more of what they want, tune in for AGC’s free webinar on Thursday, April 14 at 2:00 p.m. (EDT). During this 60-minute session you’ll hear an AGC member firm’s story as their CEO and CFO discuss their experience with the AGC Alternative. Hear why they chose the AGC Alternative and gain valuable insights into how you too can better position your company to be more competitive in recruiting and retaining the talent you need for today and in the future.


Hard hat inspection and maintenance

The hard hat is one of the oldest, most widely used and important pieces of personal protective equipment on the construction site. In order for it to protect you, you must be regularly inspect it, maintain it and wear it properly. The following tips will help you keep your hard hat in optimal condition:

  1. Inspect your hard hat before each use.
  • Begin with the shell, and look for cracks, nicks, dents, gouges and any damage caused by impact, penetration or abrasions. If your hat is made of thermoplastic materials, check the shell for stiffness, brittleness, fading, dullness of color or a chalky appearance. If any of these conditions are present, or if the shell is damaged, replace it immediately.
  • If your work is predominantly in sunlight, consider replacing your hard hat more frequently. Ultraviolet light can cause the hat’s shell to deteriorate over time. Also, replace your hat’s shell if you work in an area with high exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals. You can find the date code on the underside brim of the cap.
  • Inspect the suspension in your hard hat. The suspension absorbs the shock of a blow to the top of the hard hat. Look for cracks, tears, frayed or cut straps or lack of pliability. All keys should fit tightly and securely into their respective key slots. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly. Replace your suspension if it shows signs of wear or damage.
  1. Limit the use of stickers. They won’t necessarily interfere with the hat’s performance, but they may interfere with your ability to thoroughly inspect the shell for signs of damage.
  2. Replace a hat that has been struck by a forcible blow. The impact can reduce a hard hat’s effectiveness.
  3. Never modify the shell or suspension. Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell. Never use a suspension that is not intended for use in your particular hard hat shell. Do not carry or wear anything inside of your hard hat between the suspension and the shell.
  4. Don’t wear your hard hat backwards unless the manufacturer certifies that it is safe to do so. You should have written verification from the manufacturer that your hard hat has been tested and that it complies with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute when worn with the bill turned to the rear. The manufacturer may specify that the suspension should be reversed in the helmet to ensure adequate protection. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Inspecting, maintaining and/or replacing your hard hat is well worth the effort and expense. You don’t want to be injured because you are wearing a hard hat that has outlived its usefulness.

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