Forklifts make life easier for retailers, shipping companies, ports, and other organizations that move large numbers of goods around the globe.
Despite their reputation for improving efficiency, forklift-related citations are routinely among OSHA’s top 10 violations each year, and the agency estimates 110,000 accidents involving forklifts occur every year.
Floor marking, however, can help curb these startling numbers through improved organization, efficiency, and safety. Here’s a look at how floor marking can create aisles, control the workflow, and warn of hazards where forklifts might be present.
Establishing a Floor Marking System
Employers have a lot of flexibility when establishing a floor marking system.
OSHA does not explicitly require any kind of floor marking. Rather, in its standard on materials handling and storage (29 CFR 1910.176), OSHA says simply: “Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked.”
Beyond that broad requirement, these OSHA interpretations can help steer floor marking decisions:
- The floor markings used to define an aisle may be any color, so long as they make it clear the area is an aisle.
- Floor marking lines should be 2" to 6" wide; any width of 2" or more is acceptable for ensuring maximum visibility.
- Aisles should be a minimum of 4' wide, or at least 3' wider than the largest piece of equipment utilized within the aisle.
- When appropriate or necessary, OSHA allows facilities with unusual surfaces (like dirt floors) to use materials or methods other than paint and tape (most commonly used in conventional warehouses and stockrooms).
OSHA’s standard for walking and working surfaces (29 CFR 1910.22) sets no guidelines for specific floor marking colors, but the agency’s standard for safety color codes (29 CFR 1910.144) specifies that red and yellow must be used for marking physical hazards.
- Red is for fire-related hazards (identifying fire protection equipment and containers of flammable liquids, for instance), as well as emergency switches, bars, and buttons on hazardous machines.
- Yellow indicates caution and to mark physical hazards (including stumbling, falling, and “caught in between”).
The need for floor marking arises from the numerous hazards posed by forklifts. Here’s a quick glance at some of the risks inherent in using forklifts in a facility:
- Forklifts compete for space with inventory and pedestrians: The potential for accidents between forklifts and pedestrians increases when aisles, pathways, and storage areas aren’t clearly marked.
- Pedestrians wander into harm’s way: Accidents are more likely to occur when forklift operators don’t drive with best practices in mind—or when safety controls don’t remind pedestrians to be careful or avoid an area altogether.
- Loads fall over: A forklift’s loads may tip over when the operator hasn’t inserted the forks under the pallet as far as possible, loads are imbalanced or unsecured, or when the operator drives with the load higher than recommended.
Using Floor Marking to Improve Forklift Safety
Floor marking can go a long way toward mitigating hazards posed by forklifts. Here are a few ways to use floor marking for improved safety:
- Create aisles and pathways: Aisle markers and pathways alert pedestrians to the presence of forklifts, create separate paths for pedestrians and forklifts, and safely direct traffic throughout a facility. Printable tape can also indicate the direction of traffic. Each of these instructions can help a forklift driver operate safely and more efficiently in congested corridors.
- Use floor signs to create traffic controls: Clear, easy-to-read floor signs warn drivers of speed limits, inform pedestrians of nearby forklifts, notify workers when pedestrians or forklifts aren’t allowed in an aisle, establish right-of-ways at intersections, and more.
- Reroute pedestrians: Thoughtful floor marking may keep employees away from forklifts and moving loads altogether. Can you use floor signs and aisle markers to send employees around the edges of a busy warehouse? Can floor marking direct employees through pedestrian-only zones that are off-limits to forklifts?
- Identify important areas: Floor marking can point out loading docks, warehouse doors, ramps, and other areas that might involve hazards.
- Cordon off storage areas: Alert employees to inventory, pallets, and other materials that forklifts might lift and transport around a facility.
- Create boundaries around forklift parking and charging areas: Designated parking areas remind employees not to leave materials there when forklifts are absent and encourage safe practices at all times. Boundaries may also prevent employees from tripping over a forklift’s forks.
Floor Marking Resources from Graphic Products
Get a quick overview of common floor marking colors to keep workers safe, improve organization, and increase efficiency with our one-page Floor Marking Color Chart.
Get an in-depth look at the importance of floor marking, OSHA standards and interpretations, various floor marking methods, and more with our Best Practice Guide to Floor Marking.