Somebody Restrain Me

"Somebody Restrain Me" is an article focused on the use and regulatory requirement of seatbelts for forklift operators.

If I hear one more person squawk about the use of seat belts by forklift operators I think I’m going to scream. It has been over 20 years since the major manufacturers began outfitting their units with seat belts and over 10 since ANSI made it ‘standard’ for manufacturers to supply them, and for users to use them; still, the wail of the seatbelt nay-Sayers continues.

I think that one of the misconceptions about forklift mounted seatbelts is that many users believe that they serve the same purpose as their automobile mounted cousins, which is not the case. In fact, you may have noticed that ANSI B56.1 does not refer to seatbelts as such but by the more accurate term, “Active Operator Restraint System.”

This is because the “system” is designed to keep the operator restrained within the cab in the event of a tip-over, not from projecting through the windshield in the event of a collision, like and automobile seatbelt; Although restraint systems have a few headaches by keeping the operator’s body parts from impacting other parts of the equipment during a collision.

The excuses I hear from non-believers have become rhetorical i.e.,

  • a) The driving surfaces where I work are flat; Great, however most tip-over’s occur under the machine’s own impetus not as a result of operating on grades.
  • b)I am on and off the machine 200 times a day; that may be it doesn’t reduce the chances of being injured or killed in a tip-over.
  • c) The seatbelt keeps me from turning my butt in the seat so I can look rearward while reversing; there are restraint systems and and/or swiveling seats easily available to get around that.

You get the idea. The fact remains that the benefits of using seatbelts exceed the drawbacks/inconveniences many times over and besides, it’s the law.end of story.

I’ll leave you with a bizarre occurrence a few years back about a trainer who set out to prove the folly of using seatbelts by driving a unit around in tight circles at high speed. The forklift tipped over and he was ejected. The forklift is fine now but he has no legs. Just wear the belt. Please.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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