- Load Distribution
Load distribution is an essential aspect to safely operating any forklift. Each make and model of forklift has a different load capacity and it is crucial that forklift operators are aware of the capacity of the forklift they are operating and how to ensure loads are distributed effectively. Size, shape, position and weight distribution are all factors to consider when calculating whether loads are distributed properly and if lifts can safely be executed. Overloading a forklift can result in the machine tipping, the rear wheels raising, steering control malfunctions or the load falling off the forks. Any load distribution error may result in accidents which have the potential to result in serious injury. Always consider load distribution when operating a forklift. Learn more.
- Proper Preparation
Proper preparation is required of any forklift operator. Operators should remember to dress appropriately: including any safety equipment, hi-visibility jacket, safety shoes or hard hat required per environmental factors and company policies. Loose clothing should be avoided to prevent clothing becoming caught on the truck and interfering with controls. Hands and shoes should be dry and not greasy so as to avoid sliding off controls and creating an accident. Operators should ensure that all controls, mirrors and seating are adjusted and are within easy reach of the operator. Forklifts should never be operated unless the driver is seated in the designated operator’s seat and all ligaments are within the confines of the truck. Safety belts should always be fastened throughout operation. Machines should be switched off while recharged/refuelled and refuelling should occur in well-ventilated and flame-free areas.
Maintaining clear visibility is a necessity in order to safely operate a forklift. To ensure clear forward visibility, operators can carry loads closer to the floor. Operators are encouraged to ensure that there is adequate visibility when positioning a load and to operate equipment in reverse when a load restricts visibility. If visibility is obstructed, operators may need a second person to assist or must otherwise confirm it is safe to proceed.
- Equipment Inspection
Forklifts should be inspected for safety regularly, per industry standards and regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides checklists for forklift inspections. The checklists are provided as part of OSHA’s ongoing effort to assist employers and employees in ensuring that a safe and healthful workplace is provided, according to the OSHA website. The lists serve as a guide only and may not be totally inclusive. Each type of powered industrial truck is unique and checklists pertinent to each type of vehicle should be modified accordingly. It is recommended that the manufacturer’s instructions on vehicle maintenance and owner’s and operator’s responsibilities also be consulted. Read the checklists.
- Hazard Avoidance
An obvious way to safely operate forklifts is to avoid all known hazards. Operators should follow all job site policies and only operate equipment in designated areas. All warning signs should be observed and safety should remain a precedent. Operators must always look in the direction of operation and remain aware of their surroundings. Forklifts should not be driven over bumps, holes and materials as load stabilization may be affected. Extra caution is required when floors are obstructed or wet. Operators should reduce speed and utilize warning applications when in proximity of corners, exits, entrances, stairways, doors and known pedestrian walkways.
- Environmental Factors
Operators should always be aware of load heights and heights of any entrances/exits. Extra precaution should be taken when operating equipment on ramps/bridges. Operators should always ensure that ramps/bridges have the capacity to withstand the weight of the machine and load. A safe distance from edges should be maintained to avoid accidents, injury and load loss. All warning signs regarding maximum floor weight and clearance height should be observed with special attention.
Forklift operators must operate machines safely, abiding by all speed restrictions and taking responsible action when necessary. Turns and corners should be taken with extra precaution and especially slowly. Sudden stops, starts or turns should always be avoided.
- Operator Qualifications
To avoid hazard and/or injury, only those who have been trained, authorised and licensed should operate forklifts.
If an accident does occur, it is important to keep in mind the necessary steps to take in order to properly assess and respond to the the event.
- Assess. Quickly assess the situation in order to respond appropriately. If an injury has occured, that is the foremost priority.
- Seek medical attention. Immediately seeking medical help is essential. It is important to do so quickly to address any injury and to also protect any workers’ compensation claim.
- Take photos. Photograph the accident in order to document the scene, equipment and any injuries suffered. Include any contributing factors in the documentation. The photos may prove helpful in potential workplace investigations or insurance claims.
- File a report within the organization. Ask a supervisor or human resources manager how to properly report the accident. Most organizations maintain proper protocols on how to report accidents and injuries.