4 Tips to Operating a Forklift Safely
Safety is a vital priority to companies that own forklifts. It is vitally important to have a consistent, well-communicated safety plan in place for all those who operate forklifts. You may not be able to eliminate every accident, but you can limit your liability and the costs of unexpected repair and maintenance when your forklift drivers pay attention to the safety principles outlined below.
Legal age and basic safety
The basics are always key. For starters, no one under the age of 18 is allowed by law to operate a forklift. Operators should always be trained, and only the operator should ride on the vehicle. The basic safety rules include keeping arms, legs and hands inside the perimeter of the forklift body and cage.
Establish that you have these basics in place and you can move on to 4 tips to operating a forklift safely:
Safety Tip #1: Driving a Forklift
Speed Kills: A high percentage of forklift accidents occur when the driver strikes another person while in transit with the machine. While forklifts are not as fast as some types of vehicles, their speeds are sufficient to require constant vigilance to prevent collisions between the forklift and people on foot. Often there are crucial zones in the workplace where risks of accidents are highest. These may include blind corners where mirrors need to be installed so that drivers can see around racks or walls. Increased visibility and warning signs can reduce risks of forklift accidents, but teaching drivers to properly manage speed is the most important aspect of forklift safety.
Safety Tip #2: Handling a Forklift Properly
It’s All About the Forks: Driving with the forks raised should be strictly avoided. Not only does it affect the balance and handling of the machine, raised forks can easily strike loads above the floor, puncturing packaging or spilling materials. This most common mistake in forklift handling needs to be monitored and reinforced, especially when new drivers come online in your operation.
Just as importantly, loads should never be carried while the forks are raised. The potential for damage and injury is tremendous when loads are transported with raised forks. Balance is compromised. Loads can shift and fly off from dangerous heights. The forklift can even tilt or crash if the load causes sufficient momentum.
It only takes a moment of forgetfulness to compromise forklift safety.
Safety Tip #3: Unloading a Forklift
Watching your weight & loads: If your material loads are consistent in size and construction, then establishing unloading protocols is relatively simple. Even in these circumstances, forklift operators must be aware that even standardized loads can deviate, shift or be compromised in other ways. Encourage forklift operators to conduct inspections of wrapping and try to determine whether prior damage during shipping or loading has created safety risks that might result in load shift or collapse.
Also, do not assume that your forklift drivers will automatically evolve the best, most efficient system for loading and unloading. In situations where manual labor or stocking is involved, it is particularly important to review the best methods for loading pallets.
Safety Tip #4: Maintenance
Keep your vehicles in top working order: Maintenance requirements vary by type of forklift, so knowing your particular machine’s needs in terms of fuel and oil, lubricants and hydraulics can make all the difference in how well and how safely your forklift operates. To keep in line with all of these tips, it helps to reward good behavior and good safety records.
About the author:
Cheryl Bikowski is the Marketing Communications Supervisor of Gamber-Johnson (http://www.gamberjohnson.com) in Stevens Point, WI. Gamber-Johnson is a leading supplier of rugged computer mounting systems and vehicle mounting components and is a member of the Leggett & Platt Commercial Vehicle Products (CVP) Group.