People commonly see forklifts in warehouses and even in big box stores. Because people are so used to seeing them and because they are typically smaller and less imposing than other equipment, forklifts don't often receive the proper respect. This is a mistake. Optimum Safety Management quotes statistics from OSHA saying that there are 96,785 injuries each year due to operator error or carelessness with forklifts. This statistic shows a need for workers to pay more attention when operating forklifts and to have more respect for these machines as a whole. Here are some safety guidelines to follow when working with a forklift.
Each forklift should be inspected each day. This means checking every aspect of the forklift from the tires to the level of fluids like oil and water. Any forklift that needs repair should not be used.
Forklifts should be properly maintained by a mechanic and have complete inspections several times each year.
Only workers with adequate training should operate a forklift. They should be over the age of 18 and properly trained and licensed on each type of forklift they will be using.
Forklift operators should always wear a hardhat and a reflective jacket or vest. They should also avoid loose clothing that can get pulled into equipment.
The forklift operator should not begin using the machine until a seat belt is secured and all mirrors and hand grips have been properly adjusted.
It is critical that forklift operators are acutely aware of their surroundings. They should know exactly where the machine is in relation to other machines and people, and they should know the surfaces they will be driving over. Here are some hazards to watch for when operating a forklift.
- Look for people who may not hear or see you coming. People can step out from behind tall shelving or piles of supplies, so always be scanning in front of you when using a forklift. Honk the horn if you think people may be nearby and step into your path.
- Be aware of what is beneath you, operating only on solid flooring. Don't drive a forklift over an uneven floor or over a temporary floor that has not been tested to withstand the weight of a heavy machine like a forklift.
- Watch for anything laying in your path like a rock or another piece of equipment. It can be difficult to swerve at the last minute and can even cause the forklift to fall over.
- Ask someone to watch ahead for you if visibility is a problem.
Many forklift accidents are caused by operators moving at excessive speeds. Do not drive your forklift faster than regulations permit or so fast that you cannot completely control the vehicle. Slow down before making turns or going from one path to another.
Your forklift is intended to carry loads of a certain weight only. Do not exceed these requirements. Too much weight on the fork can cause the forklift to tumble forward. Also, avoid using the tips of the forks to lift heavy objects. The bulk of the weight should be further back on the forks themselves.
The weight of the load should be distributed evenly between the forks. If it isn't, the forklift can turn over, especially when moving around corners.
Workers too often assume that forklifts are not dangerous, and the result is that forklifts are not given the proper respect. Pay close attention to safety regulations and guidelines when operating a forklift or when allowing an employee to operate one. Worker safety is everyone's concern, and proper training can prevent accidents and injuries.