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Common Forklift Operator Injuries and How to Prevent Them

by Jerry Gorham on January 25, 2018
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common forklift operator injuries and how to prevent themSitting for long periods, twisting into awkward positions and spending all day riding in a machine with no suspension are just a few reasons forklift operators find themselves with musculoskeletal and repetitive use injuries.

Lower back pain, musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries are some of the most common reasons for absenteeism and workers comp claims. According to a report on OSHA’s website:

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are the most widespread occupational health hazard facing our Nation today. Nearly two million workers suffer work-related musculoskeletal disorders every year, and about 600,000 lose time from work as a result. Although the median number of lost workdays associated with these incidents is seven days, the most severe injuries can put people out of work for months and even permanently disable them. In addition, $1 of every $3 spent on workers' compensation stems from insufficient ergonomic protection. The direct costs attributable to MSDs are $15 to $20 billion per year, with total annual costs reaching $45 to $54 billion.

In today’s post, we’ll uncover the most common injuries forklift operators experience, and how operators, facility managers, and fleet managers can prevent them.

 Common Forklift Operator Injuries and How to Prevent Them

The most common injuries associated with operating a forklift include:

  • Neck and back pain due to vibration, sitting for long periods of time, poor posture and shifting into an awkward position to maintain visibility
  • Whiplash Injuries such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating from abrupt stops and starts
  • Musculoskeletal injuries from repetitive movements
  • Lower back issues associated with prolonged sitting in combination with shock/vibration caused during travel

Some of the issues described above start as a nagging pain at the end of the day, but can turn into chronic pain, reduced movement and even inability to work.

To prevent some of the issues above, forklift operators should:
- Stretch their hands, shoulders and neck regularly: before and after each shift and during breaks
- Never drive with a wallet or other bulky object in a back pocket 
- Position the seat so their feet can easily reach the pedals
- Adjust the backrest so it is tilted slightly backward
- Slow Down! Faster speeds increase shock and vibration that can cause bad posture and fatigued muscles

Facility managers can prevent injuries by:
- Fixing rough, broken floor surfaces and potholes.
- Installing CCTV cameras and mirrors to improve visibility in the facility

ergonomic-forklift-seat.png

Ergonomic forklift accessories can reduce stress on the body:
- Look for an ergonomic operator seat that tilts, swivels and has a weighted suspension

- Replace the seat every three years, or use an anti-vibration seat cushion forklift-seat-cushion.jpg - Install a grab handle-mounted horn button, so drivers don’t have to push a button on the steering wheel while traveling in reverse.
- Invest in telemetry devices that offer multi-view cameras, pre-shift checklists and more in a single device. We recommend the GEM Sapphire.

GEM-Sapphire-Forklift-Telemetry.jpg

When buying a new forklift, look for ergonomic features such as:
- A vibration-dampening steering column
- A mast designed for the best possible visibility
- Angled cross braces so looking up through the overhead guard is easy without neck strain
- Low step height for easy entry and exit
- A small steering wheel combined with a large operator cabin
- For stand-up lift trucks, look for intuitive, low force single-hand control operation and low-vibration suspended floorboards

Learn more about the ergonomic extras that come standard on Toyota forklifts.

Minor discomfort and little injuries can add up to a big expense for the forklift operator and the employer. To learn more about ergonomic options on a new forklift, or ergonomic accessories for a lift truck in your fleet, contact us online, or by phone.

East Bay - Livermore (510) 675-0500
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading:
Guide to Warehouse and Forklift Safety
3 Ways to Prevent Common Forklift Accidents
How to Choose the Best Ergonomic Warehouse Equipment


Forklift Certification in California

Topics: Safety, Forklift Safety, Forklift FAQs

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