We all wear seatbelts whist driving our vehicles on the road but operators do not always wear their seatbelt while operating their forklift.
Most passenger vehicles come equipped with 3-point seatbelts, a soft impact dash, a collapsible steering column, air bags, impact bumpers, crumple zones, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, doors, roof and radial tires. That’s a lot of safety equipment but we still understand the need to wear a seatbelt.
Now, let’s take a look at the average forklift truck:
- Solid steel rod steering column
- plastic-coated steel dash
- two wheel drum brakes
- open cab
- no crumple zones or bumpers
Although a forklift’s maximum speed is just 10-20 mph, you wouldn’t want to run into a wall at that speed! Even at just 10 mph, your hands will not be able to stay on the steering wheel. Your chest and/or abdomen will impact the steering column, and forward momentum will allow your legs to impact the solid-structure dash. Ultimately you are likely to be thrown from your seat, colliding with the mast assembly.
If your forklift is involved in a tip-over accident, you stand a good chance of being thrown from the operator’s seat and being crushed by the overhead guard. Remember, the overhead guard is there to provide protection from falling objects, it is not a roll cage and in the case of a tip-over accident, it can be deadly.
More than half of all forklift-related accidents involve either an impact or a tip-over/fall from the operator’s compartment. It therefore makes sense to wear seatbelts when fitted on a lift truck.
Below is the HSE’s position on wearing seatbelts whilst driving lift trucks:
“Since 2002, counterbalanced trucks, rough-terrain trucks and side-loading trucks, one side only, must be fitted with an operator restraining system (for example a seat belt). For older trucks which do not have one, you should fit a restraining system if the risk assessment indicates that there is a risk of the vehicle overturning and where the operator may be trapped between the truck and the ground. Where restraining systems are fitted they should be used.
Where a restraining system cannot be fitted, and the risks are sufficiently high, it will be necessary to use another lift truck which has such a system. Any lift truck fitted with a roll-over protective structure (ROPS) to protect operators from the risk of injury resulting from 180° or more roll-over should be fitted with a restraining system”