#HazardSpotting: What’s RIGHT with this forklift photo?

| May 21, 2013

hazard spotting forklift

The nice folks at MySafetySign liked my interview and subsequent comments on the trench photo, and so I sent them this one and offered to analyze it for them. Their #HazardSpotting motif is: “Can you spot everything they’re doing wrong?” But in this photo I must ask, “Can you spot anything they’re doing RIGHT?” To riff on David Letterman, at least they’re all wearing pants.

The forklift photo has been circulating for at least five years. There are Youtube videos with soundtracks and photos of safety disasters, and this has been a mainstay on those for at least that long. No idea who took it or when; I was told it was taken in China. Nonetheless, let’s assume that this was happening in the United States.

Forklifts, aka “powered industrial trucks,” are regulated under Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, at 29 CFR 1910.178.

Forklift Design and Load Capacity

First and foremost, when heavy equipment is involved, the regulatory agencies refer to the manufacturers’ design specifications in terms of safety ratings. I think we can safely say that the lift truck on the ground did not have design plans to handle the load capacity shown in the photo. The manual that came with the vehicle would have the maximum weight listed.

Secondly, the writers of regulations can’t anticipate EVERY ridiculous thing that safety-unconscious people will do on a real jobsite. Picking up a forklift with another forklift? Even the people that took the brown acid at Woodstock probably wouldn’t have thought of that one.

PPE for Forklift Operators

Now to the guy standing on the second, uplifted forklift. Again, no regulation-writers could ever have anticipated this sort of nonsense going on. Even if it were somehow allowable for him to be up there, he should have had a safety harness, a retrieval line, and a hardhat on. But no worker should ever be doing what he’s doing. These people were not using the proper equipment for the project.

Look up a little higher now. Whatever equipment that is which is being lifted on the second forklift at least appears to have some sort of canvas webbing safety strap holding it together. Note, though, that it doesn’t seem to be attached to the forklift itself.

Safety Barriers

Finally, check out the four fellows up top, waiting to unload the load. The load itself is blocking the view, and so doesn’t let us know if there’s a gap to unload it through, but one must assume that one exists. But the gentlemen sitting so casually up top are on the unsafe side of the safety barricade. I have to appreciate that whatever and wherever that workplace was, at least they HAD guardrails, although they obviously didn’t provide effective training so that workers used them accordingly.

More about #HazardSpotting

Think you’ve seen an unsafe work condition? Whether it’s construction, manufacturing, or food safety, we’ll investigate the hazard. Snap a picture and share your story with us by sending an email to the editor at Krissa (at) Smartsign.com. We’ll write a post and consult a safety expert. Did we miss anything? Comment below.

Thanks to Bob Carlson, our featured safety expert. Mr. Carlson worked in the electronics industry in Silicon Valley before there were any relevant regulations, and saw firsthand the lax procedures for hazardous waste disposal extant at the time. He later worked for Greenpeace in San Francisco, then as a state hazardous waste inspector in St. Louis. Since then, as a private consultant, he’s conducted many hundreds of safety and environmental cleanup classes, a similar number of property inspections, and has provided expert witness testimony in liability cases involving contamination, for over twenty years. He holds a B.S. in Earth Sciences, and completed six years of university studies. You can visit his blog, Hazard Hot Sheet, for more information.

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Category: #HazardSpotting, Guest Post

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  1. Safety Blog | Hazard Hot Sheet | May 28, 2013
  1. Bob Carlson says:

    I was thinking about the photo, and recalled a couple of nicknames those of us in the industry might use for the character riding the upper forklift.

    My background is hazardous waste cleanup, and sometimes we refer to the new kid as a “canary,” as in a coal mine. But the guy on that lift truck is what we called a “cowboy,” someone who would KICK a 55-gallon drum to see if anything was in it. Not a great recipe for a long life.

  2. Claude I. Hine says:

    Looking at the picture, I can imagine that I would have been involved in just such a project back when I was that age. At 81, I am in the safety consulting business because that is the way things were done in the 50’s. It was called, “getting the Job done.” I shudder to remember the many stunts I pulled just to complete a job not considering any safety violations. We were as careful as we could be but disaster is just a moment away. Knowing what I know now, I marvel that the Grace of God has enabled me to continue to live to ripe old age. One of the first jobs I had was driving a fork lift. The only question I was asked before driving one was, “Could I drive?” Of course at 18, I had been driving since I was 14 and had even passed my driving test and had a license. The truck had no guard over the top and no seat belt. It was gasoline powered and we worked in a large manufacturing facility producing TV tubes for the televisions just beginning to be mass produced. The year was September 1950. I had some close calls with that truck but survived. I could have been on the truck being lifted up by the bigger truck. Oh, Oh…

  3. Marco says:

    I used this picture in a Forklift training on 2007 in KSA. The conclusion was: 1.- Operators Non responsibility.
    2.- Where they training? 3.- Method Statement? 4.- Risk Assessment? 5.- Where was the supervision?

  4. jacques desjardins says:

    there is 12- error in that picture to bad for everyone out there because if i see something like that you can be sure that those guys are going to have a real good brake at home

  5. Charity Stebbins says:

    Claude–that is an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it! And although regulatory bodies like OSHA have certainly created more accountability since the 1950s, it still amazes me how many construction sites I pass by on the street that are still in the “get it done” mentality. What troubles me most is wondering how many workers, particularly those who don’t speak or read English well, aren’t even aware of the safety precautions that they’re entitled to.