Forklift Operation

Forklifts can be deadly.

Safety is imperative for all businesses, and especially for craft breweries. While decades of safe operations and little to no accidents will rarely land attention from the media, serious accidents will gain negative attention. Above all the marketing and publicity, it is important for operators to keep employees and customers out of harm’s way.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted by the United States Congress, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) website said the act was created to:

  • Assure safe and healthful conditions for working men and women;
  • Authorize enforcement of the standards developed under the act;
  • Assist and encourage the states in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; and
  • Provide for research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety and health.

A look at the most commonly cited standards during the period of October 2016 through September 2017 revels a number of safety concerns that are directly relateable to breweries. According to, the third most cited standard was caused by powered industrial trucks, costing the industry as a whole nearly $40K. In 2013, one regional brewery employee died in a forklift accident. How can you ensure your brewery employees are being safe? There are three areas to consider: the forklift itself, the hazards associated with using a forklift, and OSHA-compliant forklift training.

Forklifts are Powered Industrial Trucks

Forklifts are commonly used in breweries large and small.  One of the most frequently cited OSHA violations is unauthorized operation of forklifts by uncertified operators.  Forklifts are the only powered equipment requiring operator certification prior to use.

Make no mistake the seaming innocent looking forklift can be a deadly machine.  According to OSHA statistics, forklifts are responsible for on average 85 fatalities and 34,900 serious injuries each year, with 42 percent of the forklift fatalities from the operator’s being crushed by a tipping vehicle.

Hazards Associated with Industrial Trucks

With the various types of forklifts available today, the hazardous are numerous.  Many of the smaller breweries will purchase used forklifts that may have been abused by their previous owners and each may have hidden dangers unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Have a qualified person inspect any forklift thoroughly before purchasing a forklift for your brewery.

In many instances brewery employees are operating forklifts without any training or understanding of the principals whatsoever of operation regarding safe lifting, material storage and transportation of heavy loads.  In some cases this may be the first time the employee seen a forklift.

Workplace type and conditions (wet floors) are also factors in hazards commonly associated with forklifts. For example, warehouses often face less challenges in maintaining pedestrian safety than on the production floor.

Beyond that, many workers can also be injured when

(1) forklifts are inadvertently driven off loading docks;

(2) forklifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer;

(3) they are struck by another lift truck; or

4) they fall thru trailer floors unable to support the weight of the forklift and the load being transported.

5) forklift strikes a pedestrian

Also It is a violation of Federal law for anyone UNDER 18 years of age to operate a forklift or for anyone OVER 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified to do so.

Reduce the Hazards Related to Powered Industrial Trucks

Determining the best way to protect workers from injury largely depends on the type of forklift operated and the worksite where it is being used. Breweries must ensure that each forklift operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of a training and evaluation program meeting the specifications spelled out in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1).

It is highly recommended that your forklift operators get recognized training by a competent trainer.  Failing to do so can result in damaged equipment, product and serious injuries and possibly death to an employee.

If you need more information about where to get OSHA compliance assistance contact me at the links listed below.

Terry Botts