Forklifts are a very useful tool for many warehouses across the country when the right operator is behind the wheel. Certification from an OSHA-approved, content rich training class, is the first thing a new employee needs to obtain to become a legal forklift operator. However, just because a new employee passes the test doesn’t give them a free pass to be careless in the workplace.
This guide to the common forklift hazards in a warehouse will help operators understand the dangers they constantly have to be on the lookout for in the workplace. Careless forklift operators can cause more than just a lack of productivity—they can cause harm to pedestrians, product, and equipment within the warehouse. To avoid that, it’s vital for employees to take these principles below into consideration.
Forklift Speed and Maneuvering
If a forklift operator is not careful enough when moving and turning in the workplace, they run the risk of causing injuries and damage nearby. The front end of forklifts is not the only consideration the operator needs to be aware of. They also need to aware of the rear of the truck as it has quite a wide swing during turns. Operators have to be careful carrying out these actions anytime it is necessary for them to turn and move down a tight corridor in the workplace to avoid colliding with pedestrians, shelves, products, and other potential obstructions nearby. Forklift operators also have to be very careful of how fast they go up and down aisles in the workplace. Speed should always be reduced in any areas inside the warehouse in which forklifts and heavy pedestrian traffic are always in close proximity. It may also be prudent to post speed limit signs in these areas as a reminder for operators to slow down. The reason is simple, due to how heavy forklifts are, especially when they’re carrying a load, coming to a safe stop is much harder if the forklift operator is driving excessively fast. That means that if you’re speeding and a pedestrian walks into the aisle, hitting the brakes might not be enough to stop the momentum of the vehicle. When driving at a safe speed, you can make it easier to slow down your vehicle in the presence of pedestrians.
Operator Blind Spots
What can frequently make these practices hard to maintain for newcomers to the job is the fact that forklifts are frequently driven in reverse. This might sound odd at first, but the reason for this is to account for any blind spots created by the load that the operator is transporting.
These blind spots can be a danger in the warehouse because bumping into someone/something with a forklift isn’t the same as accidentally bumping into someone in the grocery store. As mentioned above, a forklift colliding with a pedestrian in the workplace can result in serious injuries. Not only will full loads obstruct operator vision, but so will poor weather or lighting conditions. If an operator can’t safely maneuver around an area due to lack of visibility, he or she needs to have a spotter help them as they navigate the right direction.
Forklift Load Stability
Unstable loads can cause forklifts to improperly maneuver around the warehouse, and in some cases, topple over entirely. Or, in other cases, the loads themselves can fall off the forks. This is why loading and unloading products is a key part of hands-on forklift training courses. Instruction should also include training focusing on topics such as: the importance of traveling with the proper fork height, operating the forklift at a safe speed, and properly maneuvering up and down the aisles. Ignoring specific job related material handling instruction could very easily result in having a careless operator behind the wheel, which in turn could pose safety risks.
Driving on rough terrain or inclines can also pose a threat when it comes to load stability. If these hazards could be present during the course of a operators day, forklift operators should receive the proper training for handling scenarios similar to those they mayl encounter during their certification course.
Another factor regarding load stability that forklift operators need to be aware of is the vehicle’s load capacity. This information should be clearly labeled on a data plate in the forklift, which is usually found inside the cab near the front end of the vehicle. If an operator puts more weight on the forks than what is on the data plate, it can cause the whole vehicle to become imbalanced and fall over.
Quality of Floors in the Workplace
As important as it is to maintain proper speeds and load capacity in the warehouse, there’s something that can cause accidents even if an employee is following those steps perfectly; a dirty floor. If a leak occurs anywhere in the warehouse and nobody cleans it up, or a forklift operator isn’t observant enough to spot it, this can be another cause of the vehicle toppling over or striking something or someone nearby.
The same principle goes for any debris like trash, boxes, or discarded materials that should not be laying in the middle of the floor. Anytime an employee sees obstructions like this in the workplace, they should either remove it or inform a superior who can direct a designated professional to deal with it.
All forklift operators should be aware of the common forklift hazards in a warehouse, especially a warehouse they will be working in day-in and day-out. As forklift operators become more familiar with their work environment, they should become more able to spot hazards as opposed to becoming too comfortable to care. This is why the importance of OSHA-approved training courses prior to getting behind the wheel of a forklift is so immense.
At First Quality Forklift Training, we can help provide new and experienced forklift operators with the knowledge and training they need to safely operate the vehicle each and every shift. For additional help, we also offer Genie MEWP training for warehouses that require lifting equipment outside of forklifts. Whichever vehicle employees are operating in the warehouse, they should always have the proper training to do so. Without giving employees proper training, a company can not only find themselves in a lawsuit, but also in a reckless work environment.