An interesting transformation happens when someone gets into a car. The vehicle becomes a suit of armor and the occupant becomes a warrior. How else to explain road rage? We hear all the time about one motorist cutting off another in traffic, leading either to an exchange of finger salutes at best or a game of road chicken at worst. These are people who, outside their cars, are the nicest human beings around. But once surrounded by a suit of metal, a sense of invulnerability overcomes these saints —a false sense, considering the accident reports we hear and read about every day. And how many of the contributors to the fatal statistics didn’t bother to ensure their invulnerability by wearing their seat belt?
That warrior psychology applies in the warehouse as well, where forklifts become industrial-strength suits of armor in the minds of poorly trained operators. This leads to the illusion that a forklift can do anything, and by extension, so can its driver. Seat belt? No need—besides, too restrictive. In a recent e-mail exchange, David Hoover of Forklift Training Systems told me that attitude is not uncommon on the job.
“Many don’t realize the power they wield when using forklifts or how deadly even a bump to a person can be,” he wrote. “Seatbelt use is better at big companies these days, but small to mid-size companies enforce much less (although that’s a generality only, as I see bad big companies and good small ones at times), if you have the belt on and tip over you live 100% of the time, if not you may get severely injured or killed.”
What inspired this commentary on industrial-strength courage was a video Hoover brought to my attention. It showed security camera footage of someone using a forklift to steal an ATM machine from a bank. Then something clicked in my head that I read about some similar shenanigans where someone used a forklift to extract the candy bar he paid for but didn’t receive from a stingy vending machine. I did a search on Youtube and there was not only Hoover’s video, but an audio feed of a radio show discussing the vending machine caper. But wait, look around and there’s more. Much more. Apparently the forklift has become a criminal tool of choice for many bank robbers. There were enough of these security camera and news snippets to create a mini-gallery—which we did.
Hoover promised to share his observations about another disturbing trend he’s seen on the job—the use of man-cages as forklift attachments. But that’ll be another lesson. For now, take a look at our collection of modern-day Butch Cassidys and their hole-in-the-head gangs.