The forklift is one of the most widely utilized pieces of equipment across worksites, serving as a powered industrial truck for lifting and transporting loads. Despite their abilities, operating any kind of industrial machinery entails inherent risks. With an estimated one million forklifts in operation, it becomes imperative to ensure that crews undergo proper training in forklift safety.
Safety is Priority
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), forklift accidents result in approximately 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatal accidents annually. This highlights the fact that all forklift operators and pedestrians need to follow sufficient safety guidelines. When using a forklift, following all worksite rules, signs and regulations is of utmost importance. Here are 12 best practices that will help you and your team prioritize safety while using lifts:
1. Forklift Training
Given that a significant number of accidents result from inadequate safety training, it is best to assign forklift operations exclusively to individuals who are trained and in compliance with your company’s safety standards. Employers should assess their employees’ performance regularly and offer continued education and training.
2. Wear Proper Clothing
Forklift operators should be dressed in the appropriate safety equipment per your employers’ guidelines. Make sure there is no loose clothing to prevent it from getting caught on the forklift.
3. Know the Forklift Classification
There are many different forklift types and classifications. Since each type has its own structure, weight limit, traveling speed, turning radius and usage, it’s important to know your equipment to follow the best safety practices for each machine.
4. Inspect the Equipment Daily
Thoroughly inspect forklifts before each use. Check in daily with shift supervisors to identify and log any problems or defects. Any equipment that requires repair should never be operated.
These checks do not need to be lengthy or complicated. Here’s a quick forklift safety checklist that companies can implement based on OSHA’s recommendations.
- Test operating controls such as brakes, lights, horn and steering wheel.
- Check mast and overhead guard for damage.
- Examine tire and fluid levels (hydraulic, brake, engine, fuel and coolant).
- Check for water, oil or radiator leaks.
- Ensure the forks are in good condition (e.g. straight, no cracks, no distortion).
- Look for potential hazards.
5. Maintain 360° Visibility
Keep forks low to the ground to provide clear visibility. If the load restricts your view, operate the equipment in reverse. Always ensure you have a good view of the rack when you are positioning the load. Additional best practices defined by OSHA are:
- Always make eye contact with pedestrians and other workers
- Always look in the direction of travel
- Use rear-view mirrors to boost visibility
- Use a horn frequently to warn pedestrians
You can read the rest of the tips on the OSHA website.
6. Follow Floor Marking Systems
A floor marking system helps increase worker safety. Use yellow to mark crosswalks or physical hazards, such as areas prone to falling or stumbling, and red to delineate fire hazards, fire equipment and emergency switches. Place wayfinders and signs throughout the site to keep pedestrians away from forklift paths, lead forklifts along safe routes, and improve the overall flow of traffic.
7. Observe Equipment Capacity
Be aware of the capacity of your forklift and any attachments. Avoid hauling weight that exceeds the counterweight of the forklift. Because of the way forklifts work, overloading can cause the rear wheels to rise off the ground and can make the whole machine fall over. This can cause severe injuries and damage the equipment and materials.
8. Never Carry Additional People
Do not allow other workers to ride on the equipment with you unless a second seat is fitted into the forklift. Do not use the forklift to lift people without proper equipment. If you need to lift a person, use only a secure work platform and a forklift safety cage.
9. Loads Must Be Stable and Secure
When placing loads on the loading dock, check their balance. Travel with the load tilted backward and keep forks as low as possible to increase the stability of the equipment. If necessary, use ropes or bindings to secure stacks and heavy loads and make sure pallets or skids used are the appropriate weight for the load.
10. Use Appropriate Speed
Drive forklifts within designated speed limits. It’s important to not stop, turn, change directions suddenly, or move fast when making sharp turns, as these actions can cause the forklift to tip over.
11. Keep a Safe Operating Distance
Always be aware of surrounding equipment on the worksite. Do not operate a forklift in close proximity to other machinery unless absolutely necessary and keep a safe distance to allow you room to stop safely and avoid other machines or forklifts.
12. Avoid Hazardous Areas
Avoid standing too close or walking under a load, lifting mechanism, or forklift attachment, as loads can fall off on anyone positioned below it. Keep hands and feet clear away from the forklift mast, as a moving mast can cause serious injury.
Forklift Pedestrian Safety
Since almost 80% of forklift accidents involve pedestrians, it’s vital to keep pedestrian safety in mind when operating forklifts. The best strategy is to train both operators and pedestrians at a site on proper safety procedures.
- Always yield to pedestrians.
- Sound the forklift’s horn at blind corners and when backing up.
- Have a spotter assist in blind areas.
- Hand signal to pedestrians to stand clear or warn pedestrians of potential hazards before operating the forklift.
- Remember forklifts cannot stop suddenly.
- Stand clear of areas where forklifts are in use.
- Be aware of the wide rear swing radius.
- Use pedestrian walkways.
- Never ride a forklift without authorization and the proper equipment.
- Never walk under a lifted load.
How Can I Improve My Forklift Safety at My Facility?
In addition to training, companies need to ensure coworker safety by providing proper maintenance on forklifts, maintaining a clear and obstacle-free workplace environment and encourage a strong safety culture. Addressing these issues can help prevent forklift accidents and improve safety practices in the workplace.
NOTS Logistics is an asset-based company that offers four core services – warehousing, transportation management, customized distribution, and workforce management – to provide clients a whole solution. Founded on a culture of caring, our focus is on our customers, our coworkers, and our community. At NOTS Logistics, we make your success our priority. For more information, please visit www.notslogistics.com