Awareness Is Key to Avoid Lift Truck Accidents: Hyster Co. Conducted a Comprehensive Study of Accidents Involving Lift Trucks and Pedestrians. These Accidents Are among the Most Frequently Reported and Often Involve Serious or Fatal Injuries

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What Hyster Co. learned about lift truck and pedestrian accidents can assist safety managers in deciding how to equip lift trucks for their particular needs, how to establish workplace rules for safe lift truck/pedestrian interaction and how to organize the physical workplace to reduce the potential for these accidents.

The study reinforced that lift trucks have good visibility, particularly to the rear. If an operator keeps a proper lookout in the direction of travel and maintains the lift truck under control, and if pedestrians are trained to maintain a proper lookout for their safety, there should be few, if any, lift truck/ pedestrian accidents.

The Hyster study included an evaluation of a substantial number of reported accidents, as well as a comprehensive search to identify articles and studies concerning a means to prevent accidents involving a lift truck and pedestrian. The company surveyed lift truck users to identify the usage of optional audible and visible warning devices, and contacted manufacturers of these devices concerning the effectiveness of their products. Hyster also conducted field evaluations of pedestrian warning devices.

Accident Data

Lift truck accident data is published periodically by various sources, including state and federal government organizations. However, specific factual information concerning individual accidents often is vague, and the contributing factors are difficult to identify.

Hyster's evaluation of its own accident reports indicates that approximately as many of these accidents occurred while the lift truck was traveling forward (including tail-swing accidents) as in reverse. Most reverse-travel accidents occurred within the first 10 feet of travel, whereas most forward-travel accidents occurred after the first 25 feet.

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Many of the accidents involved injury to pedestrians who were not only aware of the presence of the lift truck, but who were, in fact, working with the operator of the truck that struck them. Some lift trucks involved in these accidents were equipped with audible and visible alarms, and others were equipped with alarms that were non-operational at the time of the accidents.

Accident Causes

The lack of detailed information concerning specific incidents makes it impossible to isolate a common or predominant cause of accidents involving a lift truck and a pedestrian. However, some contributing factors may include:

* Ambient noise or light levels

* Number of lift trucks and pedestrians present

* Lift truck operator's level of training

* Pedestrians' education concerning lift truck operating characteristics and how to work around them

* Physical workplace layout, including separate travel zones for pedestrians and lift trucks

* Presence of audible or visible warning devices on lift trucks and other mobile equipment

* Presence of audible or visible warning devices on cranes, conveyors or other stationary industrial equipment

Other contributing factors include lack of specific operating rules for lift truck travel, such as sounding the steering wheel horn at intersections or when changing directions, and a lack of enforcement by management of safe work procedures for lift truck operators and pedestrians.

OSHA regulations require specialized training and regular re-training for lift truck operators and remedial training for operators involved in accidents or near accidents. OSHA estimates that its current operator training requirements will prevent 11 deaths and 9,422 injuries per year.

Pedestrians should understand the operating characteristics of lift trucks when working in their proximity, and should understand and follow pedestrian rules established for their specific environment by their employers.

Another key issue is separation of lift truck and pedestrian traffic. …

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