The Cost of Not Protecting Our Workforce

A report generated by OSHA highlights the real costs associated with on the job injuries, who pays them and how this impacts the employee and taxpayers.

Whether an employee is working on a high-rise building or driving a forklift, employers have the responsibility, and what we feel is an obligation to protect their employees from injury. By investing in training and safety, employers get fewer injuries, lower costs, more productivity and an improved satisfaction which often leads to less turn over. But all companies do not feel that way. Many are finding ways to avoid responsibility for providing safe working conditions for their most dangerous jobs.

The report highlights what some companies do to avoid responsibility and what this does to not only the employee, but his/her family and taxpayers when an accident with injury occurs. Shifting the financial burden however does not make it go away. It shifts it to over-burdened worker’s compensation and government systems. In addition, a worker who is injured can expect to make an average of 15% less income after the injury. And while the creating of OSHA in 1970 by President Nixon has greatly reduced on the job accidents, injuries and deaths dramatically, we still have approximately 4,500 deaths every year due to workplace accidents.

As a full-service forklift dealership, safety is one of our most important topics. Forklifts are dangerous pieces of equipment for the operator and anyone working around the forklift. While manufacturers work hard to innovate and make them safer, nothing can replace a well trained and cautious operator.

Report – The Cost of Not Protecting Workers

Daily Forklift Inspection Forms

Forklifts must be inspected daily, or prior to each shift if used in a multi-shift operation. This may seem like a burden and for some large companies, indeed it is. We believe though, that the inspections are a good routine to fall into. Forklifts can be very dangerous machines if something isn’t working right or is damaged. Cracked forks, chains, leaky hydraulics, damaged tires and many other items that are easy to miss, can present a very dangerous, even deadly situation.

We used OSHA guidelines to develop the following forms. One for electric forklifts, the other for internal combustion forklifts. Please feel free to copy and distribute as needed. Remember to keep copies of each inspection, either in a file, or scanned and store digitally.

If you find that your forklift needs to be repaired or service, be sure to use a lockout tag and contact our forklift service department as soon as possible to schedule repairs. Should you need a replacement, we have a large forklift rental fleet to fill your short-term forklift needs.

Any questions about forklift repairs or service, please contact us at 800-322-5438.

Four Traits of Safety-Minded Companies

As managers and owners, we want a safe work environment for all of our employees. Unfortunately, all too often it escapes us. Time passes quickly, and initiatives that were once important standards become guidelines or even merely suggestions. How can we ensure that when we put safety measures in place, they will stay in place as employees come and go in a business climate that is constantly in flux?

While we lack the space to answer this question in full detail here, there are a few major approaches to providing a safe work environment that transcend industries, equipment and facilities. We outline these “hows and whys” of workplace safety below.

Since 1970, OSHA has worked to create a safer workplace for all employees, and their mission has been very successful. However, accidents still happen, and not only at companies willfully violating OSHA standards. Sometimes safety goes beyond meeting standards due to unique circumstances in certain operations.

The following are a few approaches to safety that have helped both large and small companies to achieve better workplace safety, fewer incidents and accidents, lower costs, more productivity and better workplace attitudes.

  1. Safety is integrated with company mission – Safe companies put as much emphasis on doing things safely as on doing them productively. From day one, every employee knows they are working for a company that would rather they do their job safely than quickly. These employees will lockout a piece of equipment when something goes wrong, will replace light bulbs that need it instead of ignoring them and will report unsafe behavior or unsafe conditions.
  2. Training never ends – Employees are involved in ongoing training – how to lift more safely, how to sit properly in a chair, how to operate a certain piece of equipment and so on. Your business is fluid: things change; equipment changes; and equipment, building space and employees are added. As your conditions change, your training must address these changes. Training for the safest work environments is never a one-time event or a two- or three-day training initiation. It is an ongoing pursuit of the safest possible work facility. It should be a goal of all employees to see that their coworkers go home safe every night.
  3. Involvement at all levels – While involvement in a safe work environment must start from the corner office, the mission and strategy it is also important to ensure that every employee knows that they are involved and responsible. It is a good idea to create safety teams for every facet of your business, to revolve people in and out of those teams, and to have them conduct frequent facility or department reviews to identify potential threats. The most successful companies have reward systems for reporting anything that could be a potential threat, even if it is as minor as a sharp corner on a coat rack. This keeps all employees engaged in creating a safe work environment.
  4. Accountability – Once you have established your safety mission and mapped out your strategy, everyone involved must be held accountable. No one can shirk their safety responsibilities. If a sharp corner on a coat rack is missed and someone gets cut, find out why no one noticed. Are they doing regular inspections? If safety standards are not being met, it is the leadership’s job to find out why and fix it. Everyone must know that if an accident happens on their watch, it must be accounted for and a plan must be designed to ensure that it will not happen again.

A truly safe, productive and profitable workplace is attained through ongoing efforts, and these are just a few of the major traits of successful organizations. We encourage you to seek the assistance of OSHA, NIOSH or other private safety consultants to help you organize and strategize your safety plans.

A safe organization on all levels is happier and more productive. Take advantage of the benefits of being a safety-minded organization and watch the benefits blossom.

Forklift Safety Day 2017

The Industrial Truck Association has announced it’s second annual Forklift Safety Day, to be held Tuesday, June 13.

While most of you won’t be able to attend, there are things you can do to take advantage of this day to help create awareness about the dangers that forklifts present and how to minimize the potential for accidents that can result in injury or death, damage to your facility, equipment and financial losses.

We’ve compiled a short list of things you can do on June 13th to improve safety on and around your forklifts.

  1. Make sure all your forklift operators have been trained and that their refresher training is up to date, if applicable or necessary.
  2. Take time to teach your forklift operators the importance of daily inspections of their forklifts. Daily inspections reduce the risk of equipment failure and catch small problems before they blossom into giant ones.
  3. Take some time to gather any staff that operates around forklifts, but not on them, to refresh them about the dangers of this equipment and how to be sure to use safe procedures when they are in an area of your facility where forklifts are being operated.
  4. Make sure all your forklift’s maintenance is up to date. If you have a Planned Maintenance Agreement, this would be a good time to review it with your service provider to ensure all standard checkpoints as well as unique equipment attachments are being inspected and maintained properly.
  5. Review any unique “site specific” features your facility may have and be sure your operators are aware of proper handling of equipment while on or around these features (ramps, areas where floors can be slick, floor substrates that vary etc…)
  6. Make sure that training is part of your company’s orientation for anyone that will or MIGHT operate a forklift. Remember, employees that have not been properly trained aren’t even allowed to sit on and start a forklift, much less move it out of the way of anything.
  7. Make sure you forklifts have proper safety equipment and that it’s operating properly. Lights, horns, back-up alarms, seat belts, fire extinguishers etc…
  8. Make sure you have lock-out kits to ensure that forklifts that do not pass an inspection are locked out immediately until repairs are made.
  9. Review all your forklifts for possible replacement. Old forklifts, or those that are getting “up there” in hours, might be potential threats. Review safety records and maintenance logs for your equipment. You might find this could be a good time to replace some or even all of your forklifts.-

Our goal is to help you operate safe, efficient and productive forklift equipment. Any questions about operating a safe forklift fleet, or to get a quote on new equipment, please Contact Us or give us a call at 800-322-5438.

Factors Reducing Safe Lifting Capacity of Your New Forklift

You just purchased a new forklift. Along with your purchase you made sure your forklift operators were trained properly.  Operators’ knowledge of safe lifting capacity equals a lower risk of property damage, injury or death.

Your forklift was shipped from the manufacturer with a data plate indicating lift capacities at various heights based on its equipment options, for example, side shifters, carton clamps or other attachments. Once you put the forklift into service, there are several factors that can, over time, dramatically reduce the safe lifting capacity of that forklift. Below we have highlighted the major factors effecting lift capacity.

Forks – The continual use of forklifts results in normal fork wear. The amount and rate at which they wear depends upon the weight of the loads handled, how they are handled (what type of substrate is coming in contact with the fork) and how often loads are handled (duty cycles). A 10% reduction in fork surface (wear) results in a 20% reduction in the safe lifting capacity of your forklift. A forklift rated to lift 5,000 lbs is reduced to 4,000 lbs once the forks are 10% worn. At this point the forks must be replaced.

Daily Inspections are required by OSHA – While a daily measurement of fork wear is not required, it is good practice to conduct a fork wear inspection on a regular basis, based on previous “FORK” criteria previously mentioned. During daily inspections, forks should be visually inspected for cracks or bends. Both reduce the safe lifting capacity of your forklift and create a dangerous operating condition.

If the load you are carrying changes requiring a need to use longer forks, the load center changes. This results in a reduction of safe lifting capacity. It will be important that you work with the manufacturer to determine the new safe lifting capacity of your forklift with the new fork configuration.

Chains – Chains should be inspected as part of any normal Planned Maintenance Program. Your service technicians should be properly trained to measure chains to determine when they need to be replaced. When a 3% elongation results in a 15% reduction in safe lifting capacity the chains should be replaced. Never attempt repairs on chains that are worn. Replacing them with the proper chains per manufacturer’s specifications is recommended to ensure a safe working environment for your employees.

Load Center – The data plate on your forklift indicates safe load capacities at given fork load centers. Not every pallet received by your facility is loaded according to the forklift manufactures specifications. It is important for safe operation to recognize and adjust your lifting practices to ensure safe handling of materials. As a rule, for every inch beyond the manufacturers recommended fork load center, one hundred pounds of lifting capacity is lost at a lowered height of six to eight inches.

Upon replacing the following, verify:

  • Tires – Verify they meet manufacturer’s specifications. Especially if changing the type (cushion or pneumatic) or the size.
  • Batteries – Verify they meet manufacturer’s specifications. If you have purchased a used forklift this can be an issue. Seek assistance from a professional that you are equipping it with the proper battery.
  • Attachments – Anytime you add an attachment of any kind, regardless of how benign it may seem, work with a professional or the manufacturer to determine if the attachment affects safe lifting capacity – if so, how much.
  • Engines – You might never replace an engine. But if you do, be certain the replacement engine meets or exceeds the weight of the current engine and that the configuration of the replacement engine does not affect the center of gravity of the forklift. This is particularly important if you purchase used forklifts. Ask the seller if the engine has been replaced or altered in any dramatic fashion. If it has, be sure the forklift has been re-rated for safe lifting capacity.

There are sites on the Internet like www.lifttruckcapacitycalculator.com that can assist you in re-rating your forklifts after minor changes such as attachments or other alterations that may affect their safe lifting capacity.

Working with a partner like Matthai Material Handling to institute and manage a Planned Maintenance Program is the best way to guarantee that your forklift fleet is always operating safely and your employees are not in danger. Planned Maintenance Programs have also been proven to be the best way to maximize the productivity of your forklift fleet by reducing down-time. These programs will pay for themselves over and over again throughout the life of your forklifts.

OSHA Announces Top 10 Violations for 2016

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, OSHA inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and OSHA’s top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures.

OSHA says far too many workers are killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding (including lift trucks) violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Their list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. They urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, OSHA has released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

OSHA has many additional resources, including a wealth of information on their website and their free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.