The forklift is the most recognizable and used piece of equipment in a warehouse. They are an invaluable tool capable of doing a ton of work. Walk into any warehouse, and you’ll see an organized ballet of trucks and people moving materials high and low, near and far. Without the forklift, the landscape of warehousing and logistics would look much different. While forklifts are a wonderful tool, they are large, powerful, and dangerous. They must be respected and used in a safe, responsible way to make sure that the operator and other employees don’t get severely injured. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration estimates that forklifts account for 61,800 minor injuries, 34,900 serious injuries, and 85 forklift related deaths every year. That is a lot of on-the-job injuries and deaths that probably could have been avoided. Put some of these essential forklift safety tips into practice every day so you go home in one piece.
Always Inspect the Equipment Before Using
Just like a pilot doing a walk around the aircraft, a forklift operator should inspect the truck too. Every day, and before every shift, the forklift needs a thorough inspection. The purpose of a daily inspection is to make sure that all the systems on the truck are functioning normally. It is dangerous to operate a forklift with faulty brakes, hydraulics, or fuel systems. There should be a checklist near or on the truck so the operator knows what to check. Any notes from the previous operator should be reviewed so they know if there are broken parts on the truck.
Wear the Proper Clothing
Wearing the proper clothing in a warehouse is important for your personal safety. This will vary from company to company, so find out your company’s policy and adhere to it. Some general items that will keep you safe, though, are steel-toe boots, gloves, long sleeves, and hard hats. Having personal protective equipment (PPE) in conjunction with the right clothing will protect against various warehouse hazards. Electric forklifts have large batteries that power them. These batteries need servicing on occasion, which is dangerous. When an operator has to add water to the cells in the battery, there is a chance that acid can splash back and burn the skin. In those instances, it’s good to wear, apron, gloves and safety shield or goggles. The addition of a full-face shield and gloves will protect against any accidents.
Mark the Floors
Forklift operators are skilled workers who know how to drive their equipment. They have training and supervision to make sure they follow best practices and work safely. But accidents can happen. Traveling with a load, the driver must watch that load as well as the path in front of him while scanning for pedestrians all at the same time. In workplaces that have a mix of pedestrian and traffic like forklifts, marking pathways can help. In the case of the forklift operator they can see where they’re going and what the clear path is. Marking the floors gives the driver something to see in the peripheral vision while traveling. There may be a tall load or an oddly shaped one that the driver has to watch. Highly visible yellow lines give a guide to follow. Just like lines on the road, lines on the floor help everyone know where the truck will travel, areas where pedestrian foot traffic should occur and areas where the lines of travel may cross.
Know the Limitations of the Truck
It’s important to know the limitations of the equipment you are on. Forklifts can do a lot and lift heavy loads, but they have their limitations. Every forklift has its load limits posted on the truck. There is a safety placard that tells the operator how much weight the truck can safely lift without tipping over. Knowing the limitations of the truck will make sure the operator doesn’t try to do more than the truck is capable of. A larger truck with a different classification may be necessary if the truck is asked to lift an over-sized load.
No Horseplay Ever
Driving a forklift for a living is a fun job that many people can do. Because the job is fun and operators zip around the warehouse all day, there is a temptation to misuse them. Forklifts are not toys, though, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. They are large, powerful pieces of industrial equipment that can cause serious injuries or death if misused. A forklift should never be raced or used in any manner other than its intended purpose. Succumbing to the temptation to horse around on a forklift can change your life for the worse real fast.
Use Your Training
There is a reason that forklift operators must go through classroom and practical training. First and foremost it is a law! Operators need to know how to operate the machine safely and responsibly. Training provides both new and experienced operators the information they need so they can be good at their job and know how to work safely. Part of training includes the safe operation of the machine. If you are ever in a situation and aren’t sure what to do, fall back on your training. You were given all the information you need to do the right thing and make the right decision, so put it into practice.
Never Travel With an Obstructed View
The most dangerous thing an operator can do is travel with an obstructed view. You wouldn’t drive your car with a blindfold on and you shouldn’t drive a forklift like that either. Stand-up forklifts are made so the operator has a clear line of sight no matter what direction they are traveling. If a load obstructs your view so you can’t see over it, then you must travel in the opposite direction. On more traditional sit-down forklifts, it’s not as easy to travel in reverse, but it must be done.
First Quality Forklift Training has OSHA forklift training videos so you can find out how to work safely at all times. Contact us today!