Work safely near forklifts

March 11, 2015

A 36-year-old man died of his injuries after being hit by a forklift in Delta, BC on January 20, 2015.

“Emergency responders were not able to help the man, who reportedly died at the scene,” reads this recent story from the Delta Optimist News: Man killed in Delta industrial accident.

My heart goes out to the loved ones who lost this young man. It’s also another example of trauma for first responders to process, as I wrote about in my recent post Protecting mental health of front line workers.

A contact at WorkSafeBC, who works to prevent this very type of accident, suggested I write about this. He and his colleagues – safety professionals – ask themselves if there is anything else they can write to stop people from dying in this way.

Much is already written – for example, this video series: Fields of Vision: Pedestrian Safety Around Forklifts.

And this WorkSafeBC accident investigation slideshow: Forklift crushes worker – and WorkSafeBC Hazard Alerts by equipment: Forklifts.

As you can see, the risk affects workers in many different industries, from agriculture (Rack of seedlings topples off forklift, crushes farmer) to manufacturing (Worker crushed under load when forklift tips).

It just shows that no matter how much we write about important topics, we have to keep talking about them. As long as injuries keep happening, we have to keep reminding people.


Forklift rally draws machine artists on May 5

May 01, 2012

Image from on YouTube

He described them as “literal artists.”

That’s how John Gilder, general manager of the Canadian Materials Handling and Distribution Society, described some of the competitors he’s seen at forklift rallies over the years.

“They are on these machines eight hours a day. That’s where their career is spent – on a machine. Some of them are incredible. It’s like the machine is a part of them,” said John, who I quoted in my post about the 2011 forklift rally.

Now it’s rolled around to that time of year again. On Saturday May 5, 2012, the 15th Annual BC Championship Forklift Rally will take place at the Cloverdale Agriplex.

Forklift operators from around BC will gather to test their knowledge in writing and their skills behind the wheel. For the first time, participants will also have a chance to win one of four pairs of Canucks tickets.

Here’s a link to more info on What is a forklift rally? The public is welcome – so check it out if you’re in the neighbourhood. Here’s what it looks like on video.


Setting the stage for a warehouse injury

January 24, 2012

Why did this young worker – with less than three weeks on the job – fall 13 feet from a forklift onto a cement floor?

A new audio slideshow from WorkSafeBC explains what went wrong, including best practices for prevention. It reminds me of the union rep who visited young workers to talk about workplace safety and refusing unsafe work. I shared her story in which she said: “Some of them were kids who had never had jobs, and they were already saying: ‘Ya but if I start refusing work, he’s just going to get someone else to do it.’”

This attitude has to change, so let’s do all we can to support young workers – whether they’re your staff or your own kids. Links to resources are below the slideshow.

More info on young worker safety

The RaiseYourHand website, created for young workers, aims to “empower you and all young workers in BC to use the rights that will keep you safe on the job.”

The WorkSafeBC Young Worker portal – for workers, employers, unions, educators, parents, and youth community groups

The Young Workers Zone – from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety


Safe operators score at forklift rally

August 02, 2011

Winners of the 2011 BC Forklift Rally

“Some of these guys are literal artists,” said John Gilder, general manager of the Canadian Materials Handling and Distribution Society.

He was talking about the high skill level of participants at the 14th Annual BC Forklift Rally at the Cloverdale Agriplex on Saturday, June 25, 2011.

“They are on these machines eight hours a day. That’s where their career is spent – on a machine. Some of them are incredible. It’s like the machine is a part of them.” Read more


Forklifts right and wrong way

July 12, 2011

2011 BC Championship Forklift Rally

Soon I’ll have more news about the winners at the 14th Annual BC Championship Forklift Rally held on Saturday June 25th, 2011 in Cloverdale.

It’s a competition for forklift operators who work in or around the materials handling, distribution & logistics industry – testing their skills. I want to hear what it was like for the individual winners. How did they get so good at what they do?

In the meantime, I’ll tell you a story about some very unskilled forklift use. I heard it from a guy who worked in a warehouse full of industrial electric motor controls in the late 80s.

“I almost killed a guy,” said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous. “I tipped a 500-lb motor off the top of the rack with the forklift and it landed about a foot away from my coworker.”

How did the company follow up on this incident? They didn’t. It happened with two 20-year-olds alone in a warehouse. The guy’s coworker simply yelled: “Hey, be careful, dude!” and no further action was taken.

I asked if they had any training in using forklifts.

“Not really – just gas…brake…up…down,” he said.

It makes me angry to think about young people in this situation – untrained and unsupervised, using equipment that could potentially kill someone. But it’s good to see that times have changed, and there are programs like Raise Your Hand that remind young workers of their right to get proper safety training and refuse unsafe work.

Photo credit: Rosco Ellis on Twitter, fork lift in Texas

Today in BC, forklift operators are expected to be trained to a CSA (national) standard.

The young worker in this story could have used WorkSafeBC’s StartSafe Forklift Safety Tips – especially Forklift Safety Tip 2: Safe use of forklifts around other workers.

Regulations and related materials include

* WorkSafeBC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, Section 16.4, Competency of operators

* Section 16.7, Standards

* OHS Guidelines G16.7(j)-1 and G16.7(j)-2

Common Factors in Forklift Accidents from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Four tips for forklift safety from Canadian Occupational Safety magazine


Forklift device senses pedestrians

February 03, 2011

Photo credit: Roscoe Ellis on Flickr

A guy from my grad class died after being hit by a forklift a few years ago.

Back in elementary school, he was one of the rowdier boys on the playground. Once, at the paperboy shack, he put my little brother’s stack of newspapers in dog poo, then apologized for it at a pub 20 years later. Shortly after, we heard he’d died.

Protecting workers near mobile equipment

I thought about my old classmate when I read about a “proximity detector” in a newsletter from WorkSafeBC’s Research Secretariat, which is funding part of this project by Pro-Active Safety Systems Technology Inc.

“You get no second chance with mobile equipment,” said co-inventor Richard Shervey, an industrial electrician. “There’s no crumple zones and they’re made out of solid steel. When they hit you, most of the time the worst happens. All it takes is one second of inattention.”

Each year more than 1,000 workers in BC are injured or killed in incidents involving forklifts and other mobile equipment like log loaders, bulldozers, and backhoes. Read more