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Top Safety Tips for Forklift Operators

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Safety Tips for Forklift Operators
Lynn Rose
Lynn Rose
September 8, 2023

Being able to properly handle and move equipment, materials, packages and other items is a crucial part of a safe working environment that prioritizes efficiency. Forklifts are an important part of this process. However, because of their size and complexity, forklift safety training and safety tips are essential. Let’s discuss forklift operator safety best practices for the typical work site.

What Kind of Risks Do Forklifts Pose?

Manager teaching rules of driving a forklift

This industrial vehicle is responsible for moving and lifting various items over short distances. There are a few different companies that are responsible for the creation and use of forklifts in commercial settings, such as Clark and Yale and Towne Manufacturing. Unfortunately, forklift accidents are a common occurrence, with approximately 34,000 injuries occurring annually from improper use of this equipment, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

Injuries such as head trauma, broken bones, muscle tears and lacerations can be caused by things like unsafe speed limits, poor visibility and a lack of safety training. To reduce the risk of forklift accidents and potential hazards, let’s look at some of the forklift operator safety best practices that are taught in a proper training program. There is a certain degree of physics that comes into play when an operator is working to properly balance a load.

Maintaining the Stability of the Vehicle

A forklift is designed to lift anywhere from 3,000 to 70,000 pounds, depending on the specific make and model of the forklift. All of this weight is lifted by the front of the vehicle, making it very prone to tipping or becoming unsteady. The center of gravity of a forklift is something equipment operators should know a lot about. When placing a load on a forklift, the weight should be situated as far back on the lift as possible, so that it is close to the main bulk of the lift. It’s also imperative that the load be properly balanced on the lift so there’s no risk of it slipping.

Not Overloading the Forklift

As we mentioned, a forklift has a wide range of lifting abilities, but its weight limit will depend on the make and model. Always know what the limitations are before loading anything onto a forklift. Overloading a forklift can not only set the stage for an accident, but it can also damage the equipment and the items being lifted. It’s also a good idea to lift items one at a time instead of trying to stack too many items on top of one another.

The Importance of Safety Equipment

Forklift driver with safety equipment

Operating a forklift isn’t as simple as just jumping in the driver’s seat and starting the engine. There are certain pieces of equipment that should be worn in order to promote safety during operation. Steel-toed boots will protect the operator’s feet if any items slip and fall. This is also an important piece of work gear if the forklift were to come into contact with a pedestrian in the vicinity. Safety glasses provide eye protection, while safety vests or highly visible clothing will help workers stand out in a busy environment.

Adequate Training

Anyone operating a forklift should receive safe operating training as per OSHA requirements. These powered industrial trucks require training prior to operating the vehicle hands-on for safety purposes. Some companies may even require a certain amount of vehicle operation to take place before a forklift operator can use this equipment on a job. When experience is lacking, this can result in forklift accidents and injuries.

Equipment Maintenance

Even the most adequate training can be useless if the equipment being used is damaged and in need of repair. Just like regular automobiles, forklifts should be routinely inspected and repaired as part of warehouse quality control. Features such as the steering mechanism, lighting and brakes should all be in perfect working order. If anything is malfunctioning, repairs should be made before the vehicle is put into use again.

Speed Limits

It’s a good idea to set speed limits for the forklifts that are being used within a company. These speed limits may vary based on specific equipment and the location where a forklift is being used. It’s also imperative that a speed limit be put in place when turning a forklift around corners or operating it around people. Reduced speed can ensure that everyone in the area and the person operating the vehicle are safe. Speed limits should be communicated to all forklift operators, but they should also be posted for clarity and transparency.

Maintaining a Job Site

In addition to maintaining forklift equipment, it’s also important that a job site is kept clean and safe. If there are a lot of items in the way, a forklift can hit those items. This can cause damage to the forklift, injury to the driver, and injury to anyone who is nearby when the event occurs. Make sure employees are knowledgeable about where items should be kept, how the daily flow of the business should run and employ people to keep the floor clean of debris.

Forklifts Aren’t for People

Avoid the temptation to have a person stand on the front of the forklift to transport them from one location to another. This is not a surface that was designed to keep humans safe. There are no safety restraints; the vehicle can become unstable at any moment, and there may be items on the forklift that could shift and result in injury or even death.

Pay Attention to Location

Forklift driver moving boxes

When a forklift is in operation, the driver should be aware of his or her surroundings at all times. This means keeping an eye out for people that are working nearby, but the forklift should also be kept away from areas like the edge of a loading dock. If the front portion of the forklift were to hang over an open edge and become overloaded or unstable, this could result in the vehicle tipping and causing injury.

Powering Down the Forklift

When a forklift is not in use, it should always be powered down completely. This prevents injuries caused by the equipment moving or engaging when someone isn’t there to operate it. At the end of the workday, a forklift should be properly parked and stored in an area that is safe and secure. This not only protects the vehicle’s integrity but also anyone that is nearby.

By following these forklift operator safety best practices, there can be a reduction in forklift fatalities and injuries in the workplace. It is important that employers and equipment manufacturers work together to ensure that forklift operators know the proper methods of maneuvering equipment, such as maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, pedestrians and equipment. Working together will keep everyone safe while sustaining productivity. For more tips and information, you can reach out to Pallet Market, Inc.