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Despite the trainings and regulations in place for the operation of Powered Industrial Vehicles (PIVs), accidents involving this type of machinery remain common.

Learning the best practices to mitigate risks is just as important as learning how to operate and maintain these powerful machines.

What are PIVs and Who Uses Them?

Using Powered Industrial Vehicles (PIVs) requires those working them to follow strict safety protocols that are unique to the machine and the job at hand. PIVs are also referred to as forklifts, or lift trucks, and encompass several machines whose primary use is to move large or heavy materials.  PIVs are used in countless types of tasks related to construction, manufacturing, transport, trade (wholesale and retail), mining, and more. The types of materials moved, and the PIVs used, will vary depending on the industry and environment.

PIV Health and Safety Regulations

Moving materials may seem like a simple task, but there are many regulations, protocols and trainings involved to do be able to do so. By failing to follow the proper protocols, wear the proper PPE or utilize a credible site partner (one that is certified and licensed), workers are taking a potentially life-threatening risk.

The machinery is just as specialized as the tasks at hand. PIVs are used by thousands of employees worldwide, every single day. Only trained and certified/licensed persons may operate PIVs. Typically, the legal age to operate this machinery is eighteen years or older.

In both Canada and the United States, there are dedicated government departments that can be consulted for up-to-date health and safety regulations. The over-arching Code & Standards B335 (revised in 2020) is what governments use to develop and implement programs concerning safety, requirements (from machine maintenance to physical fitness tests of workers), and qualifications for operators.

Any industry that uses PIVs must operate within the requirements set out in their region and have a duty to continuously ensure the minimizing of risks and hazards.

There are many types and classes of PIVs. The term includes machines ranging from rough terrain forklifts (commonly used in precarious outdoor environments such as in construction sites or dumps) to narrow aisle lifts (used indoors such as in warehouse storage areas). Each have their own unique parts, function and method of use that is beyond the scope of this blog. They also differ between power sources, and fall into one of two categories: internal combustion engine or on-board battery. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are great places to access more in-depth information on specific regulations and topics concerning PIVs.


PIV-Related Accident Statistics

Operating any kind of machinery requires caution. Despite training and regulations, it is estimated that about 70% of PIV-related accidents in the US could have been prevented. Better training is needed to prevent accidents and the severity of them. Annually in the USA, PIVs result in about 85 fatal accidents (causing death) and close to 35,000 serious accidents. Non-serious accidents from PIVs reach close to 62,000 cases annually in the US.

Training is needed before ever setting foot in one of these machines. Operating them is a skill that is improved over time and comes with experience. Understanding the ways to mitigate hazards means having the knowledge to do so effectively, even when put on the spot. Continued focus on training will hopefully help lower the statistic that 90% of PIVs in the US are involved in an accident during their approximate 8-year lifespan.

Training is needed before ever setting foot in one of these machines. Operating them is a skill that is improved over time and comes with experience. Understanding the ways to mitigate hazards means having the knowledge to do so effectively, even when put on the spot. Continued focus on training will hopefully help lower the statistic that 90% of PIVs in the US are involved in an accident during their approximate 8-year lifespan.


Why are PIVs So Dangerous to Use?

Some types and models of PIVs may be trickier to operate simply due to their design and the nature of the job. Using a PIV must always be taken seriously regardless of the environment. Anyone in the vicinity – operator, fellow workers, and pedestrians – can be harmed when an accident happens.

There are many characteristics of PIVs that make them a workplace hazard if operated without proper training and precautions. These are large machines that weigh several times more than a regular passenger car. Their construction also makes them less intuitive to maneuver. For example, the brakes are in the front, making it harder to stop suddenly if moving quickly. They are built to be rear-heavy in order to compensate for the heavy loads that are added to the front end. Every time these vehicles are driven, there will be a different (and likely uneven) weight distribution.

In the US, almost a quarter of PIV accidents occur due to the machines tipping over. What is more, the load at the front could partially obstruct the view of the driver and they may have to drive backwards at times. All-in-all, using a large machine to move large loads around is innately dangerous. These are just a few examples that help illustrate how much the operation of a PIV is a highly specific and learned skill that is developed with experience.


Safety Protocols for PIV Use – What is In Our Control?

What can employers do?

Employers can initiate and enforce various training protocols, but the person operating the PIV must put them into practice. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety outlines many do’s and don’ts of PIV operation. Having workers go through specific trainings for PIV use will not only protect them and the people around them – which is of utmost important – but will also improve the workflow in the space as well as protect the infrastructure itself.

Since employers are the owners of the machines, they are responsible for continuous maintenance and service. As with anything, these machines have a limited lifespan. Staying on top of the service schedule will ensure they are operating safely and within regulations.

What can operators do?

Using these machines properly will take out some of the built-in risk that comes from the PIV design and nature of the job. While those aspects cannot be controlled, there are many aspects of human behavior that can be and will lead to a safer work environment.

Operators should know the ins and outs of the PIV they are using. Simple things should not be overlooked or assumed. Taking time to understand how to enter, and exit safely, as well as how to secure or remove a seatbelt or harness (if applicable) are critical. Just as with operating passenger vehicles, distracted driving – not using your mirrors, not checking blind spots, not using alarms or horns when needed, and speeding – are all risky and can lead to accidents or greatly increase the likelihood of tipping over. The load limit of a PIV should always be kept in mind and taking shortcuts to move more or attempt to transport an unstable load just to get work done faster extremely risky.

Knowing the blueprints of the area or building and planning a route out ahead of time are easy to do and alleviate last minute confusion. The more ‘common sense’ aspect of operating a PIV includes some similar rules as passenger cars.

Some examples of proper driving protocols include:

  • Obeying traffic signs
  • Yielding to pedestrians
  • Avoiding sudden stops
  • No speeding
  • No listening to loud music
  • No texting and driving
  • Checking for clearance

How can TEAM Group help?
At TEAM Group, we’re trained, experienced, and qualified in the operation of PIVs. We offer a tailored, diversified facility cleaning program. From mobile equipment repair to cleaning and maintenance to operating and managing powered industrial vehicles, we’ve got all the services you require.

As part of our services, we include digital applications with real-time data tracking so you can view and asses the quality of our work on a customized dashboard. These innovative applications are used company-wide to keep track of and manage our intensive list of services.

Some of these services include:

  • Jig Cleaning
  • Filter Management
  • Washroom Audits
  • CAA Audits
  • Dolly Inspection
  • Battery Maintenance
  • Carrier Cleaning
  • Scheduling
  • Incidents
  • TM Scheduling
  • Scaffold Inspection
  • Net Promoter Score

Reach out to discuss the services and digital applications we have for industrial sites and the related equipment that can get the job done efficiently and safely.