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Forklift Life Lesson #1: Watch Where You’re Going

Feb. 3, 2014
Delivering a load fast does not pass for productivity if you deliver it into the hood of a pickup truck.

The video galleries of dumb things people do in the warehouse and on the dock, especially with forklifts, have captured a lot of attention among the MH&L audience. There’s plenty of entertainment value in these, but I wanted to issue a public response to the few of you who have told me you don’t think it’s tasteful to have fun at a business’s expense—especially when forklifts cause so many injuries and deaths every year.

That’s the point. Nothing teaches better than pictures and nothing moves someone better than moving pictures. These galleries may be considered diversions, but unless they’re diverting the attention of someone while they’re operating a forklift, I consider these galleries useful reminders of the lasting consequences of split-second mistakes.

With that in mind, we intend to periodically use some of the videos from these galleries as teachable moments—starting with the one you can watch below. This one was included in our “Dumb Things People Do with Forklifts” gallery, and it shows the literal impact of one of those split-second mistakes.

I invited David Hoover of Forklift Training Systems to offer his color commentary on the situation depicted, which involves not only a fork truck, but a pickup truck—and how these trucks “meet.” David classifies this as a lesson in looking in the direction of travel. Failure to do so is a major cause of forklift accidents, he says—and is usually the result of multitasking. He continues:

“We teach operators, when you are driving a forklift, you are to do ONE THING ONLY: drive the forklift. “If you need to scan something, to use a radio to talk to someone, to drink or eat, to write a note, etc., do it when fully lowered and stopped.  Multitasking can get the operator or someone else killed.  The problem is, people do it in their cars on their own time and then think it is ok to do the same on a forklift on company time.  Another problem is that companies often condone it, wanting that faster pace or simply to not ‘rock the boat’ by confronting employees about their actions.  The below video shows how someone’s world could have been rocked in a second.

“In this case a pickup truck arrives at the last minute. Only seconds before it was not there. The forklift operator, acting on his seconds-old observation that the coast is clear, feels the path is ‘likely’ still clear this very second—‘why wouldn't it be?’  That kind of false logic causes the forklift to hit the magically appearing pickup and to lose the load. If it had been a pedestrian this could have been a fatal accident.

“Situations change by the second in fast paced manufacturing and warehousing applications. Operators need to expect the unexpected and plan for it.  Failure to do so could be the death of them or others.”

If you need more dramatic imagery to remember this lesson, picture a forklift as the proverbial bull in a china shop—and your associates are the china.

Click here to view.