In theory, forklifts are labor-saving machines that can make life much easier for people in industrial and commercial settings, including coal mines. Forklifts make it much simpler to move, store or lift heavy materials and equipment.
A forklift can lift in a single load what would take multiple people substantial effort and time to move manually. Unfortunately, with all of the benefits that forklifts bring to the workplace, they also present their own unique set of risks for workers.
Dropped or spilled materials are a constant risk
The stability of a forklift load will depend on both the organization of the items that comprise the load and the skill of the forklift operator. Improperly loaded materials or crates could tilt or shift during lifting or transport, increasing the risk of items slipping or falling, potentially causing accidents or even landing on other people.
Even when carefully balanced and properly stored, items lifted by a forklift may shift during that lifting process, destabilizing their center of gravity and increasing the risk of a drop or spill. Both the operator and people working along the path of the forklift are at risk for items that slide or fall when the forklift is in motion.
Forklifts can cause damage to people, machinery and facilities
Although a forklift is not nearly as sharp or pointed at the end of the kitchen utensil from which it gets its name, a forklift can cause puncture wounds or blunt trauma to people, depending on the circumstances.
A fast-moving forklift could potentially cause significant trauma, especially if it hits soft tissue, such as the abdomen. Even if the front of a forklift does not strike a person, the moving components also present some risk, including for broken bones or even amputations caused by pinched-between accidents.
Forklifts can cause crushing accidents in a number of ways
From a sideswipe in a tight space to a forklift that rolls backward unexpectedly without giving a warning, there are many ways in which this heavy piece of machinery could potentially crush or trap a worker on a job site, especially in poorly lit areas of coal mines.
Forklifts can make many of the jobs performed in a coal mine easier for the staff, but it is imperative that everyone who works with or near a forklift understands how to safely do so. Proper training and safety techniques can reduce the risk people incur when working with forklifts in a commercial setting.