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The perpetual dilemma: what comes first, the forklift or the pedestrian?


Employees working in industrial and/or construction spaces face a number of daily – and potentially very threatening – risks. To avoid damages or accidents, it´s important to emphasise on prevention and constantly think about the best ways to solve those pitfalls. It´s vital we all work on creating a responsible and safe work environment for all employees.

Within this broad range of possibilities presented by the routine of industrial work, there´s an issue we´d like to address today: should a pedestrian come across a forklift, who would have priority? How do we proceed in such cases to prevent accidents?


The first thing to keep in mind is that industrial zones should provide designated spaces for both pedestrians-workers and vehicular traffic. Ideally, these should be separated zones especially set up for these purposes, so as to avoid crossings and to reduce risks. If such spaces are available, the pedestrian must always walk through them, whether on sidewalks or signposted roads, and avoid areas exclusively dedicated to machinery.

It´s not always possible to establish these separated areas, and that´s when the risks increase in frequency and danger becoming a matter of concern we must follow very closely. In this case, our recommendation is that pedestrians should circulate along the left side of the alley, except when there´s a specific risk in that area.

Besides intersections, it´s important to walk on areas especially designated for that purpose, be it a zebra or a signalled pedestrian crossing. By doing so, the pedestrian will become a lot more visible to the forklift driver circulating, and avoid greater exposure to risks.

In addition, special care must be taken when traveling in groups in industrial sites or areas: large groups should always be avoided; you should try not to take up too much space when walking in groups; it´s advisable to walk in small separate groups of two or three people to avoid risks or dangerous situations.


Most experts in accident prevention seem to give priority to forklifts and industrial machinery when in a crosswalk with pedestrians, since these are more limited in mobility and vision. It´s easier for a pedestrian to allow access to the vehicle, taking into account the difficulties involved in manoeuvring these type of trucks in enclosed areas or when moving large loads.


Our recommendation is that if the rules are not clear, you try to apply the same criteria as when you are circulating in the streets of your city. Establish the same codes, adapt them to the workspace and make them clear for everyone working there at any time.

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