If a forklift mast has sufficient structural strength to lift a pallet of brick, what could it do to an arm or leg?
It can be said an accident with a forklift mast is worse than losing a limb to a guillotine because a guillotine has a sharp edge. A forklift mast assembly can destroy muscle and crush bone, leaving nothing for a doctor to repair or save.
Education & Prevention
OSHA CFR 19010.178(m)(4) states: The employer shall prohibit arms or legs from being placed between the uprights of the mast or outside the running lines of the truck.
Forklift Mast Maintenance and Repair
For a technician, getting a service call regarding a mast jammed or stuck in an elevated position should be approached with extreme caution. He/she should use hard wood blocks first and then safety chains, keeping his/her distance as much as possible. Hooked pry bars, wedge bars and locking pliers can assist in placing safety chains so arms are kept out of the mast assembly. As an extra precaution park forklifts with the forks and carriage elevated over the top of a sufficient structure to stop a mast from suddenly dropping.
From a forklift operator perspective, the design of some smaller forklifts (i.e. stand-up lifts) place the operator within reach of the forklift mast. As operators move an unstable load, the temptation exists to reach through the mast assembly and stabilize the shifting load. Pre-shift examinations and hose/chain inspections also tempt an operator to reach in for a closer hands-on review.
Reducing Hazards and Injuries
The hazards of forklift mast assemblies are real. The resulting injury can be devastating or fatal. While walking through your manufacturing or warehouse operation, watch for dangerous practices such as reaching through or being under a mast assembly. Be explicit with operators this is strictly prohibited for their safety. Ensure all service repairs are made by authorized personnel only and educate your forklift operators about the reality of the hazards when using unsafe practices.