Forklift Pedestrian Safety

Forklift pedestrian safety training

A forklift is a workhorse on any distribution center floor, used to move product pallets and goods about the facility. But what happens when the operator of that forklift gets injured by another driver operating their vehicle? Or worse yet, what happens when a pedestrian is struck by a forklift?

The National Council Safety Injury Facts keeps a record of non-fatal and fatal occupational injuries, and from this data, we can see that between 2011 and 2018 there were 551 forklift-related fatalities of which 112 (20.3%) involved a pedestrian and a powered industrial truck (Forklift, order picker, platform truck-powered).

Over the same period, there were 56,990 non-fatal injuries – that’s an average of 7,123 injuries each year.

Pedestrian Safety

One of the most common causes of forklift-related injuries involves collisions with pedestrians. Forklifts can reach speeds up to 30 mph and have a blind spot in which the operator cannot see pedestrians immediately in front of his or her machine. The fatality rate for these types of accidents is extremely high —injuries are often significant and may involve head trauma, back injuries, broken bones, whiplash-like neck injuries, or amputation of arms or legs.

Pedestrians involved in forklift accidents have a much greater chance of being killed than the operator because the pedestrians do not have any protection to shield them.

To bring forklift safety home, listed below are two very recent fatalities in May 2021 involving pedestrians being struck by forklifts.

Pedestrian Fatality #1

An employee was pushing a heat seal equipment through drop curtains. An employee was operating a forklift traveling through the drop curtains. A coworker was on the opposite side of the drop curtains pushing a heat sealer unit towards the drop curtains and forklift driver. The forklift struck the heat sealer unit that then struck the employee causing unspecified injuries.

Current Penalty: $13,653

Pedestrian Fatality #2

An employee was walking from the dry kiln to the dry kiln. The employee was by the supervisor’s office, East of #4 and #5 Dry Kilns and the NW corner of the supply/parts room after completing a job task. Forklifts were picking up and transporting lumber to trucks to be hauled off at the time. The employee walked across the lot. A forklift operator was driving a Hyster 300 forklift in the area. The employee continued to walk around the left rear side of the forklift. The forklift operator proceeded to back up with a load of lumber. The employee stopped and waved at another forklift in the area. The employee was struck by the left rear tire of the Hyster 300 forklift as it was backing up. The coworkers called 911 and conducted CPR until EMS arrived. The employee later died from these injuries after being transported to the hospital.

Current Penalty: $9,000

And these are just two of the hundreds that occur each year. It’s no surprise that enhancing forklift pedestrian safety is a significant concern. All businesses using lift trucks in their operations have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are educated and, where possible, use the most up-to-date safety technologies to prevent accidents.

Most Common Causes of Forklift Accidents

According to OSHA, pedestrian accidents involving forklifts occur most frequently when the operator is either distracted or in a hurry—therefore susceptible to inattentive behavior.

Other common causes of forklift accidents that involve pedestrians include:

  • Forklifts traveling at high speeds/operators not following safe speed guidelines,
  • Forklifts traveling in reverse without being aware of their surroundings and/or people in the immediate area,
  • Forklift not equipped with mirrors or ‘pusher bars’ to prevent collisions,
  • Forklifts coming up against a barrier that they cannot go through or around and striking a person or object adjacent to it,
  • Improper use of the machine—this includes overloading, fueling, inspecting, and maintaining forklifts,
  • Using forklifts for purposes other than what it was intended,
  • Poorly lit forklifts or forklifts in disrepair, causing vision problems,
  • Overlooking pedestrians when pulling out of a dock or loading zone,
  • Pedestrians not following designated walkways and entering prohibited areas to retrieve tools or supplies,
  • Improper training of operators on how to drive the forklift,
  • Forklifts travel through cluttered work areas while pedestrians are going about their business, and
  • Pedestrians not heeding warning signs on forklifts or in areas where they should avoid being.

Forklift Pedestrian Safety Tips

What is the safe distance between forklifts and pedestrians? OSHA states the distance between a powered industrial truck and a pedestrian must always be at least 15 feet. Forklift operators need to make every effort to ensure they provide pedestrian walkways with adequate space when passing by.

Forklift Pedestrian Avoidances Systems

There is some cutting-edge technology that can assist in reducing forklift-pedestrian accidents. AI and hardware sensor technology are advancing at a blistering rate. Some manufacturers are already manufacturing trucks that will prevent these types of accidents.

Companies are also retrofitting collision avoidance and pedestrian detection systems to their existing lift fleet.

Some of the smart technology collision avoidance and pedestrian detection systems include;

LaneKeeping Aid System (LKAS)

This system uses cameras and sonar to detect if a forklift is drifting out of its lane. If a forklift veers out of its lane for more than 3 seconds, the system emits an audible and visual warning to the operator as well as greatly increasing the amount of steering input needed to keep the truck in its proper lane. Should corrective action not be taken within 5 seconds, the brake is automatically applied and if necessary, the truck will stop.

Radar-based Cruise Control

A radar installed on the front of a forklift’s mast monitors the distance between itself and known stationary or moving obstacles in its path. Should the forklift come too close to an object, it will automatically brake until it gets back to a safe stopping distance from that object. In some cases, the system also uses a sonar, which senses stationary objects from as far as 36 feet away from the forklift. If a pedestrian is accidentally detected by radar or sonar and if the truck is traveling at less than 7 mph, it will automatically slow down until the pedestrian has been passed safely by.

Wearable Sensor for Employees

The Lopos team developed “LoposAlert,” a wearable sensor that uses ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to monitor the distance between people and/or material handling equipment such as forklifts. It provides audible, vibration, and LED light signals if they come closer than the required distance. The UWB technology has been proven to be significantly more accurate than conventional Bluetooth or Wifi which means there are no false alarms. Accu

AI-Driven Safety Monitoring & Alerting System

Recognizing pedestrian safety in the most dangerous working environments, SIERA.AI has one of the world’s most sophisticated forklift pedestrian collision prevention systems that can detect and alert the driver when an object or person comes into range. It can also be easily bolted into a lift truck and be operational in a very short timeframe.

The SIERA.AI Safety System S3 is a machine vision solution that continuously scans for any forklift traffic and obstructions around the truck every 30 milliseconds. An audible and visual alarm will notify the driver when an object or person comes within the specified distance of 8″, 15″, or 99″.

Any forklift safety measures and systems that can compliment forklift safety training, that can warn pedestrians and forklift operators are worth serious consideration.

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About Forklift Training Zone

Hi, and welcome to This website was set up to provide a useful resource for people interested in obtaining a commercial Forklift drivers license. We’ve tried to create an easy to use website and put all the information you need in one place. provides an overview of the basic training requirements and costs for certifying to drive and operate a Forklift truck, useful information about Forklift job opportunities, job and career potential for people with Forklift certification, and much more. If you have any suggestions about anything you’d like added to, please contact us via our contact page. Alternatively please feel free to check out one of these informative posts.

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