Editor’s Note: Todays article is a guest post by Dan from Forklift Safety Solutions.
I think most people would agree that distracted driving is a worldwide problem, but might also think it is one which does not apply to them. It doesn’t matter if you are operating a service van, semi truck, car, or forklift- distractions can cause injury or death to the vehicle operator, to other drivers, or to pedestrians who are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I look back to 1985, the year I got my license to drive a car and the distractions I faced. Eating while driving, passengers, and the radio would have been the biggest diversions, but there are even more distractions vying for drivers’ attention in today’s world. Drivers today deal with cell phones, text messaging, surfing the web on their phones, DVD players, navigation devices, MP3 players, complex sound systems and much more. The problem in the material handling world is that people are bringing poor habits from their personal lives into the workplace and onto high-powered industrial trucks. Distractions on forklifts include two-way radios, RF scanning equipment, eating/drinking on forklifts, cell phones, music playing devices, pedestrian traffic and fatigued driving, just to name a few. As far as radios, RF scanners, cell phone and music players go; smart companies will put in place a policy which says that these types of devices may not be used while in motion, no exceptions. Make the first offense a formal write-up with time off while the second offense results in termination and your rule will be very effective. Food and drink is another area of concern, and companies that wish to avoid the chance of accidents will advise operators to keep food in the lunch room. Even if operators are not eating or drinking while in motion, the chance of a spill or drop while in motion and the subsequent distraction is too great. Hot and cold liquids which are spilled on operators result in many auto accidents each year, as does the dropping and retrieval of unsecured items. It does not help that many manufacturers are now building cup holders into their dashboards; it only encourages operators to bring along things best left behind. Another problem is drowsy driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 auto crashes per year in the U.S. These crashes result in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. I know firsthand that all types of vehicle operators, including forklift operators, suffer from fatigue. I remember working sixteen hour shifts day after day and praying to be able to stay awake until the end of my shift. Night shift workers suffer the most from fatigue, as the distractions of trying to sleep during the day, when everyone else is awake, are many. Most people can handle getting too little sleep one night fairly well, but the effects of sleep deprivation night after night are cumulative and can be harmful physically and emotionally. Many people also work rotating shifts, where the body never gets a chance to adjust to one set schedule, causing problems with sleep patterns. The answer to this problem is likely twofold, consisting of education for your operators and also keeping a close watch out for potentially exhausted workers. If operators can take steps to get more sleep, understand the effects on fatigue on their bodies, and learn to know their limits, it will create a safer working environment for them and others. Supervisors must also be watching for the early signs of drowsy driving and assigning those people to non driving positions for the rest of the shift, in a role where the consequences of sleepiness will not be as dangerous. Written by Forklift Safety Solutions, a leading provider of forklift train the trainer training and materials. Forklift Safety Solutions can be contacted at 614-626-7685 or you can visit them on the web at http://www.forkliftcenter.net.
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