Forklift Safety: Avoiding Distractions Behind The Wheel

Drivers and pedestrians must be aware of their surroundings


Does your company have clear rules regarding personal communication devices, food, and drink when it comes to forklift safety? If not, then you, as a forklift driver, should set personal standards. Driver distractions lead to thousands of serious forklift accidents every year, sometimes even resulting in fatalities.

It is all too easy to mentally check-out when driving a forklift.

You get busy re-hashing that fight with your spouse, thinking about the vacation you've planned or playing that great guitar riff over and over in your mind, and the next thing you know, you've driven through a blind intersection and find another forklift coming right at you.

Had you been alert and aware, you would have noticed the sound of an oncoming forklift as he stopped to sound his horn before entering the intersection. You would have stopped and sounded your horn as well, but no, not this time because you were distracted with personal business.

Forklift Aisle Accident - Pedestrian in WarehouseCell phones, MP3 players and other personal devices also contribute to driver distraction. Drivers are more focused on the personal device than on their driving. Answering phones, texting messages, tuning to favorite songs all distract you from your primary function: safely operating a piece of dangerous equipment.

Having food and beverages on the forklift with you leads to a casual operating attitude as you rationalize that taking a quick sip of soda won't hurt anything. But while you're reaching for that drink, a pedestrian comes out of nowhere, and you're not prepared for an emergency stop. Your reaction time is reduced because you must first come back to reality before you can register what is happening. You slam on the brakes, but it's too late. That simple distraction has just cost someone their life.

Never take anything on the forklift with you that might distract you from being alert and aware. Leave family troubles at home. Use defensive driving techniques to anticipate pedestrians and other traffic at blind intersections. Keep your mind in the here and now.

Benefit from paying attention to safety equipment like guard rail, traffic motion sensor systems and traffic lights in the work place. Slow to a stop when pedestrian safety gates are in operation. Stay certified as a driver and take new training each time it's available. By following these guidelines, you will have a great safety record and save yourself years of regret in the long run.