Forklift trucks

Forklift trucks are involved in many occupational accidents. Warehouse workers, forklift truck drivers and machine operators are those who most often are affected by accidents with forklift trucks.

A truck driving on the  track in the manufacturing premises

Regulations for forklift trucks

The employer is responsible for the forklift truck driver’s theoretical and practical knowledge being documented in writing.

In our provisions about the use of forklift trucks, AFS 2006:5 (in Swedish), it states that one must systematically investigate and risk-assess the use of forklift trucks. Visibility must be satisfactory and forklift traffic must be demarcated and separate from pedestrians. Lorry platforms and similar should be secured before one drives the forklift onto the platform. Those who drive forklift trucks must use seatbelts where they exist.

Risks when driving a forklift truck

The most common cause of accidents is that the driver loses control of the forklift, collides, overturns, does not use the forklift in the correct way, jams their feet or legs, or receives attritional wear injuries in primarily the neck, shoulders and back.

Physical loads

Forklift truck drivers often work in one-sided and twisted working positions, for example to get a good view when goods should be placed at high levels. The driver has their gaze fixed in the direction that he or she is driving, while the rest of the body must be adapted to the driver’s seat and the manoeuvring position. To manoeuvre the forklift is precision work that can bring with it muscle tension if relief does not exist for the hand and forearm.

Certain working tasks, for example during loading and unloading in racks, demands that the driver must continuously move their head in extreme positions, forward-backward, rotated or a combination of these movements. Forklift drivers often have wear injuries and problems in their necks and shoulders from these types of working positions because the body is strained in the same way for a long time.

Another risk is that the driver is subjected to full-body vibrations via the seat or the feet as well as vibrations that affect the arms and hands.

How to prevent accidents

Make sure that you have the right sort of forklift truck for the job you are going to do. Many accidents happen when the feet are jammed between the footplate of the truck and another object. There are forklift types with good protection for the feet. There is also technical assistance that means you do not have to bend or twist your neck unnecessarily much, for example camera and monitor support in the cab.

It is also important to have time to learn good technique when one uses a forklift. To use the truck instead of lifting with, for example, a barrow/trolley can be a good technical aid in itself, which takes the strain off the body.

Good procedures reduce the risk of injuries

One can reduce the number of injuries by having entrenched procedures that regulate how one uses forklift trucks. The procedures should take into consideration both the risk of accidents and musculoskeletal problems.

Those who drive forklift trucks should have sufficient knowledge and competence for the working tasks they are appointed to carry out. It is important that any contracted manpower has the correct competence and receives the instructions necessary for the specific workplace.

Through using the right forklift for a working task, the risks of both accidents and attritional wear injuries are reduced. The forklift should be well checked and maintained. When injuries arise they should be dealt with immediately.

Technical assistance and ergonomics

  • Choose the correct truck and technical assistance for the job you will be carrying out.
  • Invest in good ergonomics in the design of the truck, especially when it comes to how the driver’s seat is designed, for example arm and neck support, adjustability, vibration cushioning, good visibility conditions. Good ergonomics makes possible increased precision, reduced numbers of errors, reduced time necessary to complete a task, reduced fatigue and reduced physical loads.
  • Camera and monitor support is a good ergonomic aid with a preventive purpose, particularly with loading and unloading at high levels.
  • Begin the shift in the forklift by adjusting the driver’s seat and if possible the levers and steering wheel so that they suit your body.
  • Forklift truck drivers and those who work in the vicinity of trucks should use safety shoes.
  • A seatbelt. Many forklifts have seatbelts, primarily for protection if the truck overturns.
  • Avoid long-term stress.
  • Take a break every hour – sit down if you stand or stand up if you sit. A good recommendation is to take a break of 5 – 10 minutes per hour to offer the body variation as well as rest and recovery.
  • Work variation – vary your work if possible so that you do not drive a forklift all day, but carry out other working tasks. During work variation in work that entails manual handling, it is important to have good knowledge about the risks of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling physical loads.
  • Adapt the speed according to the prerequisites that apply, the design and size of the floor, and so on.
  • Even floors reduce the risk of jarring and vibrations, which can otherwise give problems in the back and neck.
  • Plan forklift traffic so that personal injuries can’t occur. As far as possible, forklift traffic must be separate from pedestrians and other unprotected persons. Mark the traffic lanes or forklift paths and take steps to fix areas on the premises that have obscured visibility.
  • Secure or chock the truck or trailer when you are working with the forklift on a car or loading dock.

Requirement for documented knowledge for forklift truck drivers

All forklift truck drivers should have documented theoretical and practical knowledge in order to be allowed to drive a forklift.  The most common way to acquire the knowledge is to complete a forklift truck driver education. Several organisations, both independent and those connected to forklift manufacturers or sectors offer training.

The employer is responsible for seeing that the staff has sufficient knowledge to drive forklift trucks in their work. The forklift licence must be in writing.

The larger training companies have, together with representatives for the labour market partners, drawn up common guidelines for the knowledge and ability of forklift truck drivers, TLP, for the forklift driver education. In some sectors, one has signed agreements that demand that truck drivers should have education according to TLP 10. You will find educational organisations that offer TLP 10 through searching on the Internet. Information about forklift truck driver education, recommended certificates and so on, is found at the different training organisations.

When it comes to education in musculoskeletal ergonomics, occupational health care services or the equivalent external resources within ergonomics contribute with competence and resources.

Last updated 2016-02-23