20 Important Safety Tips for Forklifts
We might be beating a dead horse here, as you’ve probably already been involved in countless forklift safety training sessions, toolbox talks, etc. But it’s easy to forget what we learn in forklift training modules and we quickly become numb to the same old repetitive safety precautions that they become void of any true meaning behind why we do them. That’s why OSHA statistics indicate that there are roughly 85 forklift fatalities and 34,900 serious injuries each year, 42 percent of which come from the operator being crushed by a tipping vehicle (ohsonline.com).
We can reduce those numbers by ensuring all of our warehouse workers are not only properly educated and trained to safely operate forklifts, but also to be refreshed on important safety details. It’s the duty of everyone in a warehouse to remind each other the proper safety procedure when not only operating a forklift, but working near one as a pedestrian. To help do that, here are 20 simple tips for operating a forklift to introduce you to forklift safety:
1. Operators must be qualified
- Operating forklifts should only be done by individuals who have been trained properly and contain a license to operate the equipment.
- Click Here for Forklift Certification Training
2. Appropriate clothing must be worn.
- It needs to be ensured that operators wear the appropriate safety work wear; usually consisting of a hard hat, safety shoes and hi-visibility jackets.
- The work wear must be reasonably fitted as any loose clothing can get caught on machinery.
- Don’t operate/hold any of the controls when your hands have grease on them; it may cause them to slide off and cause an accident.
3. Examine Equipment before use
- Operators should do a routine check of the equipment before driving them. Some things you should check for any faults are brakes, steering, controls, warning devices, mast and tires.
- If there are any noted damages or problems management should be notified and the forklift should not be operated if it needs to be repaired.
- Always consider the ‘journey’s end’ of a load before picking it up. A convenient position of a load from pick up may not be convenient for stacking.
4. Starting up the forklift
- For safety purposes, it’s important for the operator to make use of the steps and hand grabs to seat themselves correctly in the forklift.
- Before starting the forklift it’s important to ensure all the equipment’s controls are in reach and the seat position and mirrors are adjusted to the operator’s needs.
- The operator should not start the forklift until they are correctly seated with their safety belt fastened and all parts of their body are safely inside the confines of the operators cabin or the forklift.
5. Consider the surrounding environment
- Whilst operating a forklift you must pay attention and follow any work site rules and guidelines.
- The operator must only drive the equipment in the machinery’s designated roadways.
- Observe all signs, especially those on maximum permitted floor loadings and clearance heights.
- Be aware of the height of the load, mast and overhead guard of the forklift when entering or exiting buildings.
- Be careful when operating a forklift near the edge of a loading dock or ramp – the forklift can fall over the edge – keep a safe distance from the edge.
- Do not operate on bridge plates, unless they can support the weight of the forklift and load.
6. Operate at a safe speed
- Never proceed past the speed limit.
- Take corners and any turns slowly to minimize risk of tipping.
- Make any changes in direction or any stops gradually and slowly.
7. Avoid Hazards (seems obvious, I know, but actively trying to spot hazards will help you get better seeing and foreseeing them.)
- Steer clear of any bumps or uneven ground surfaces along with slippery conditions.
- Steer clear of loose ground objects which could cause loss of control over the equipment or a load to move around.
- Use the horn when closing in on a corner or doorway/entrance and around people to alert pedestrians or other forklift operators of your whereabouts to avoid any unnecessary collision.
- Keep a safe distance from other trucks in case they move in an unpredictable manner.
- Make sure that you always have enough space to stop safely.
8. Ensure your load is stable and secure
- Check the loads carefully before moving them for stability and damage.
- It is important to ensure that the load is tilted back with the forks sitting low whilst transporting in order to increase truck stability.
- Check for any overhead objects before lifting or stacking loads.
- Do not lift or move loads that are not safe or stable.
- Make sure loads are correctly stacked and positioned across both forks.
- Stack the load on the pallet or skid safely and correctly.
- Use securing measures such as ropes or bindings if required.
9. Make sure you have clear visibility
- Operate the forklift in reverse when it improves visibility; except when moving up ramps.
- It is important to make sure you can see the racking clearly in which you are positioning your load.
- If visibility is poor do not continue driving; in some circumstances you may need a lookout helper to assist you.
10. Forklifts are for Carrying Loads only
- Operators must not let others ride on the equipment unless another seat is fitted safely to the forklift for a second person.
- If a person has to be lifted, use only a securely attached work platform and cage and follow the appropriate operating instructions.
11. Keep Clear of the Mast
- Do not authorize anyone to stand or walk under the load or forklift machinery – The load can fall causing injury or death.
- Keep hands and feet clear of the cross members of the mast – Serious injury can be caused if the mast is lowered while your hand is on it.
12. Driving on Ramps
- When driving up ramps’ move in a forward direction and down ramps in reverse, especially while carrying loads.
- Do not load or unload goods or turn whilst on a ramp.
13. Ensure the forklift is not Over-loaded
- Do not use the tip of the forks as a lever to raise a heavy load.
- Do not push a load with the tip of the forks.
- Know the capacity of your forklift and any attachments being used and never exceed this capacity.
- An overload can cause the rear tires to be raised off the ground and may cause the forklift to tip over.
14. Ensure the Load is evenly distributed
- Do not lift or move a load unless both forks are fully under the load.
- Do not lift a load with one fork. Use pallets and skids that can withstand the weight of the load.
- Do not use damaged, deformed or decayed pallets for holding loads.
- A forklift should only be refueled at specially designated locations.
- Switch off the forklift.
- For IC engine forklifts, no open flame or sparks are permitted, and refueling should take place in a well-ventilated area.
16. When the Shift Ends
- After use ensure the forklift is parked in a designated or authorized area.
- Fully lower the forks to the floor and apply the park brake.
- Turn the forklift “off” and remove the key.
- Do not leave a forklift running whilst unattended.
17. Inspecting A Forklift
Prior to using a forklift, OSHA requires that every forklift undergo a pre-operation inspection. The pre-operation inspection involves a initial visual check with the key off, and then an operational check when the engine is running. Any defective forklifts should be taken out of service immediately, and a supervisor notified. (osha.gov)
Before starting your vehicle, conduct a pre-operation (or pre-start) inspection that checks a variety of items, including but not limited to :
- Fluid levels — oil, water, and hydraulic fluid.
- Leaks, cracks or any other visible defect including hydraulic hoses and mast chains. NOTE: Operators should not place their hands inside the mast. Use a stick or other device to check chain tension.
- Tire condition and pressure including cuts and gouges.
- Condition of the forks, including the top clip retaining pin and heel.
- Load backrest extension.
- Finger guards.
- Safety decals and nameplates. Ensure all warning decals and plates are in place and legible. Check that information on the nameplate matches the model and serial numbers and attachments.
- Operator manual on truck and legible.
- Operator compartment. Check for grease and debris.
- All safety devices are working properly including the seat belt. (osha.gov)
- Click here for forklift inspection, refueling, and recharging training
After completing the pre-operation inspection, operators should conduct an operational inspection with the engine running. This inspection includes:
- Accelerator linkage
- Inch control (if equipped)
- Drive control: forward and reverse
- Tilt control: forward and back
- Hoist and lowering control
- Attachment control
- Back-up alarm (if equipped)
- Hour meter (osha.gov)
18. Refueling A Forklift
The most widely used forklifts have an internal combustion engine powered by fuels that include gas, liquid petroleum, diesel fuel, and compressed natural gas. Forklifts with internal combustion engines can be quickly refueled but require regular maintenance checks for leaks of fuel or oil, worn parts requiring replacement, and to keep systems working properly. Newer forklifts with internal combustion engines have on-board sensors that monitor and adjust emissions and have catalytic converters that help reduce emissions. (osha.gov)
Follow correct refueling procedures:
- Park the forklift in the designated refueling area.
- Place the transmission in Neutral.
- Lower the forks to the ground.
- Engage the parking brake.
- Shut off the engine.
- Open the filler cap.
- Fill the tank slowly (if spillage occurs, wipe off fuel and wash down the area with water).
- Close the filler cap. (osha.gov)
For complete forklift refueling safety training, click here.
19. Stability and Loads
In order for forklifts to remain balanced and to prevent them from tipping over, there must be an established center of gravity. It’s important to understand why forklifts become unstable so that preventative measures can be taken. Our friends over at OSHA have broken down exactly how to measure center of gravity, as well as everything you need to know about load composition. For complete training on forklift loads and counter balance, click here.
Being vigilant of pedestrians during forklift operation is vitally important in helping to reduce risks and injuries. Employers and supervisors can do their part to maintain safety in the warehouse by:
- Separating the pedestrian and forklift traffic by creating designated walkways or travel ways.
- Restricting people from entering areas where the forklift is operating.
- Ensuring the area is well lit and the area is clear.
- Not loading the forklift in a way that restricts the driver’s viewing area. (jitny.com)
Pedestrians working in or near the warehouse where a forklift is in operation can help reduce injuries and accidents by:
- Keeping a safe distance from the forklift whenever possible.
- Always letting the driver know you are in the area. Attempt to make eye contact with the driver to ensure they have seen you.
- Being cautious near blind corners, doorways, and narrow aisles.
- Wearing high-visibility clothing.
- Not walking near or under raised forks. (jitny.com)
And lastly, forklift drivers can help reduce injuries, accidents and safety breaches by:
- Limiting forklift travel speed.
- Avoiding driving forklift near areas where pedestrian traffic is high (for example: lunch rooms, time clocks, entrances/exits).
- Sounding the forklift horn at intersections.
- Always expecting the unexpected. (jitny.com)
- Training all warehouse workers through an OSHA AtlantcTrainingt safety training program.
Forklifts are considered heavy machinery and any and all heavy machinery can be dangerous even when operated with utmost caution. Be knowledgeable and stay vigilant when operating a forklift. Get a “feel” for the machine you’re operating and encourage others to maintain safe operations around the equipment as well. It’ll help your operation of the forklift and their ability to work around it be natural, seamless, and safe.
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