In cars, seat belt keeps you restrained during collision. It keeps you safe during initial impact. On the other hand, if you were working on a forklift, seat belt can save you by retraining your body during tip over. The natural intuition of the operator when forklift starts to tip over is to get out of the cabin. The safety belt prevents the operator from jumping out that may cause him to being crushed.
Tipping over is common accident involving forklifts. It is the cause of 100 deaths each year. Accident investigation and statistics show that if operator had not moved inside the forklift cabin, he would still be with his loved ones and walked out with just minor scratches and bruises. Staying inside the guard of the truck, increases chance of surviving the accident.
Forklift Seat Belts Serves as Safety Device
Retraining devices such as seat belts are made not to make your life complicated. It is put there to make you safe from harm and danger. If you are asking why do you need to wear seat belt while operating forklift, then here are some of the important reasons:
- It prevents the operator from being tossed out of the forklift cabin during collision. You do not want to get thrown out and hit the pavement with great force. The most severe situation you can be is at the hospital and not in the morgue if you worn your seat belt.
- Forklift operators behave differently from each other, some may be rude, many are mannered, whatever you may be, seat belt keeps you in the seated, confining you inside the overhead guard so that your head and limbs won’t protrude.
- It prevent operator from jumping out of the forklift cabin when overturning happens. As I mentioned above, tipping over is common occurrence industrial setup, it causes the driver to jump out and pay dearly with life. I don’t what you to be included in the statistics, wear your belt at all times.
Requirements in Different Countries
In the United States
In the United States, OSHA does not have specific standard for implementing the use of seat belts on forklifts. However, in its Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) Section 5(a)(1), it clearly says that the employer has the sole obligation of protecting their workers from harms and dangers. Provision of retraining system such as seat belt is one such example.
ASME B56.1-1993 - Safety Standard states that all forklifts manufactured after the year 1992 must have a restraint system or over head protection that will aid workers for surviving tip over accident and reducing severity of injury.
In the UK
From date of 5 December 2002, Health and Safety Executive orders that certain types of fork truck such as rough terrain trucks, counterbalance and side loaders must have some sort of restraining device (e.g: seat belt or safety belt). For forklifts that don’t have such devices installed must be fitted with such restraining system if the risk analysis requires it. The analysis will determine if there is considerable risks of overturning and provision of seat belt is necessary.
Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (SOR/86-304), 14-7, states that seat belt must be fitted to a motorized handling vehicle that will contribute to the safety of the operator.
The WorkSafeBC 16.32 Provision states that heavy equipment with ROPS must have seat belts in accordance to SAE Standard J386 JUN93. The operator must use the provided seat belt whenever the equipment is in motion or under operation.
Regulation 4.44 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 states that employer must make sure that forklift operators must wear seat belts. In the event that such accident happened and worker is not wearing seat belt, the employer could be penalized.
To Answer the Question Do Forklift Operators Need to Wear Seat Belt
The obvious answer is YES. It is a good practice to equip the truck with such safety strap to protect workers. It protects the worker from falling out of the forklift that may cause him serious injury. It is also compliance to the current law and legislation of the country where you are situated.
There is an instance I’ve encountered in the past that worker ignore to wear the belt because it limits his movement while driving, he was cited by the company several violations, but continued to do his unsafe practice, his repeated failure caused him his job. He was terminated.
There was also a company somewhere in California that did not comply with OSHA, the company did not know that they are violating the OSHA, when inspector visits their premise, one of the violations cited was workers were not wearing seat belt, because of this simple violation, the company was fined for $25,000. It is a very hefty fine for just simple act of ignorance.
If you are an employer or employee, provision and wearing seat belt makes a difference.
The leading cause of deaths of forklift drivers is truck overturning and being struck by guard and crushed by weight of the forklift as he tries to jump out of the cabin when the truck tips over. It is bad decision to make. In a split second decision, always choose to stay inside and brace for impact. You may be shaken by the impact, had some bruises, fractured bones, but at least you still be going home to your family still with your limbs intact.
Always wear your forklift seat belt during operation and while the truck is in motion, it is required by law and it will save your life.