There are a lot of things that go into making sure that your operators and lift trucks are ready to start the work day. You have a safety program put into place, you’ve done all of your checklists to make sure the lift is ready to go and you’ve fueled up. However, there are other “under the radar” issues that come up and can lead to forklift accidents or malfunctions.
Plant or Warehouse Layout- Whenever possible, make sure forklift paths are clear. Install protection or warning tape around columns and critical rack elements. Also, install rack stabilizers, clearly designate travel paths and implement pedestrian traffic areas to avoid injury.
Quiet Lift Trucks- If you have electric lift trucks in your warehouse, you’ll notice that they are extremely quiet compared to diesel or LP forklifts. It’s a good idea to install some alarms– low-volume travel alarms are just fine for any warehouse or plant where forklifts are used. Also, since doorways, corners and transition areas are the most dangerous, make sure to warn all pedestrians to always be on the look out when walking in forklift areas. That way, if the forklift operator doesn’t see the pedestrian, the pedestrian will see the driver and can get out of the way before anyone is harmed or injured.
Movement- If a forklift is not parked properly, there is a possibility of unplanned movement. This is especially dangerous to pedestrians walking anywhere near the forklift. Always be sure to apply the parking brake, lower the forks and make sure the key is turned to the off position when leaving the forklift. A good idea is to implement a rule to never park a forklift on grades, ramps or slopes to ensure no movement after the machine is turned off. If it is necessary to park on a grade, ramps or slope, always make sure to apply the parking brake, lower the forks and chalk the wheels before leaving the lift.
Machine upset– With proper training and safety protocols in place, it is very unlikely that you will have to experience a forklift tip in your operator career. However, freak accidents do occur and it’s very good practice to have an overhead guard on top of your forklift and a safety belt around the operator at all times. People have been known to drive off the loading dock, driving over the curb, turning too fast with a raised load, etc. – all of those experiences can lead to an overturned forklift. Make sure your operator knows to never jump out of the forklift if it starts to tip and to keep all limbs and digits inside the lift. If not, there is a high possibility that the lift will fall on the operator and can lead to serious injuries or even death. It might help to line the edges of your dock doors and curbs with warning tape so the operator knows to stay away from those areas.
Defective Equipment- It’s very important to always inspect your forklift before every shift to make sure that problems can be addressed. Newer forklifts have highly reliable critical systems which enable them to be able to run for a longer time interval without needing service. However, they still need to be checked and looked over just like the older machines. Each lift should have a display in the cab which can inform you when certain parts of the forklift need attention such as oil levels, fuel life, temperature and safety codes which can be cleared out by having a licensed technician come out to look at the lift. Managers and operators should be on the lookout for spill spots (engine oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid). These can all lead to ice rink conditions and can disable your forklift.
Overloading- Most of the time, when an operator loads material onto the lift truck it’s either just below or right at the lift’s capacity. This is fine if you plan on just moving the load to another part of the warehouse. However, if you plan on raising the load to a high rack or stacking heavy loads, it’s time to step it up to the next capacity lift truck. It’s better safe than sorry when it comes to expensive loads and personnel safety.
Unintended Purposes- The forklift was made for a specific reason: to lift heavy materials and transport loads to a different location. Forklifts should not be used for any other purpose – such as elevating a co-worker so they can reach what they need without using a ladder or using the lift as a crane but attaching chains to the forks to lift a single heavy object (YES, we’ve seen this!). Try various forklift attachments, instead. Attachments are versatile and give you a safe alternative to accomplish more tasks.
Bad Eyesight- Just like driving a car, good eyesight and judgment are key. The following can all affect a driver’s ability:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Spatial judgment
- Warehouse lighting
- Temporary glare blindness
It’s imperative to always wear the right protection, especially for employees who work both inside and outside. Common sense, which plays a huge role in forklift safety, tells you to remove sunglasses while working inside.
Distractions- We all know that driving a forklift day in and day out can get very repetitious and sometimes boring. However, that’s the nature of the job. Distracted driving is a main cause of forklift accidents, yet can also be easily avoided. Unless truly necessary, ban cellphone usage from the warehouse. Although an unpopular decision, this will improve productivity and help ensure employee safety. Also, wearing earbuds is not a great decision as forklift operators must be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Enter & Exit Strategies- One of the most dangerous tasks of the forklift operator that always gets overlooked is how the operator gets on and off the lift. Forklifts are labeled as heavy machinery, and should be treated as such. It would be a shame to miss an entire shift or get hurt at the end of a shift because safety precautions weren’t followed.
- One hand should be somewhere on the frame of the forklift to give the operator a sturdy base to hold onto. Most even have a handle for specifically this purpose.
- Other hand should lead the operator to where they are going (seat, for example).
- USE THE FOOTSTEP! It’s there for a reason…
Getting off the forklift, after you’ve set the parking brake, lowered the forks and turned the key to the off position, you can grab onto the same points of contact as before. Be sure to always have a hold of something when getting off the forklift so that you do not slip off. Be sure to never jump off of the lift because it can lead to sprained ankles, twisted knees, neck/shoulder/arm/leg/hand and foot injuries.
Lift Atlanta offers excellent driver’s training courses, along with Train the Trainer courses. Call us today to improve forklift safety in your warehouse!
Donnie Norris- 678-414-0742