Forklifts are one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment for material handling across the world. However, operating this heavy machinery can be dangerous. It’s important to stay up to date with best practices and safety regulations so you and your employees can maintain a safe work environment and avoid common forklift accidents.
Reducing Forklift Hazards
Most forklift hazards can be managed or even eliminated by proper handling, maintenance, and repair of your forklifts. Below is a list of best practices to implement in your workplace to properly maintain safety protocol and guarantee peace of mind for you and your employees.
Provide Certification and Renew It Regularly
Many forklift injuries are caused by forklift operators who lack proper training and certification. Employees who are not trained and certified to operate a forklift can put themselves and others in danger. In order to maintain a safe workspace, all forklift operators must be certified by OSHA and renew their certification every three years. Proper training and certification ensures that those who operate heavy machinery do so safely, which reduces forklift hazards. It also keeps your workplace up to date with best operational practices for forklifts.
Implement a Forklift Maintenance Checklist and Inspect Forklifts Each Shift
Forklifts are used heavily in the material handling and supply chain world, handling thousands of pounds of material a day while performing the same repetitive movements over and over again. This heavy, repetitive usage can result in wear and tear over time, so it’s important to have a forklift maintenance schedule in place at the beginning of each shift. Regular forklift maintenance helps keep your workplace and your forklifts operating at the highest caliber.
At the beginning of each shift, consider performing checks of the forklift’s tire, fluid levels, horn, brakes, and the forks themselves. A consistent and detailed maintenance plan works best. Keeping your machinery running well ensures that your workplace is operating at the highest level of safety possible. Moreover, a healthy maintenance plan will also keep forklift hazards at a minimum.
Maintain High Visibility While Operating Your Forklift
While operating a forklift, it’s paramount to pay attention to your surroundings and maintain clear lines of sight with pedestrians and other materials in order to reduce forklift hazards. Many forklift injuries and collisions occur in blindspots, around corners, or while transporting material that blocks the operator’s line of sight. To avoid lower visibility, consider using spotters when you move large materials, turning headlights on, and frequently checking your rearview mirrors. These practices are especially important when operating in dark areas or around corners, helping you avoid collisions and accidents.
Operate Forklifts Within a Speed Limit
The most dangerous forklift injuries and accidents happen at high speeds. When a driver is operating a forklift at too high of a speed and turns or stops abruptly, the forklift can tip over. This sudden movement can eject the driver or even crush them beneath the equipment. Forklift turnovers are one of the leading causes of forklift fatalities and serious injuries. In other cases, even when the forklift stays upright, this sort of jolt can result in whiplash to the driver, causing neck or other long-term injuries. To avoid these forklift hazards, it’s best to operate forklifts within a certain speed limit while avoiding sharp or abrupt turns and stops.
Ensure Load Stability
When loading your forklift, it’s important to make sure heavy loads are secure on the forks so you can operate the lift without fear of injury. To avoid injury from falling objects or tipping over from unstable loads, secure material with the heaviest part of it as close to the front of the wheels as possible. Also, avoid operating the forklifts with the forks raised. Any amount of instability may result in objects falling onto the operator or nearby pedestrians. It also increases the likelihood of the forklift tipping from being top heavy. Moreover, it’s important to be aware of your forklift’s load capacity and to avoid overloading your forklift.
Mark Your Floors Properly
In a busy warehouse, it can be difficult and somewhat dangerous for pedestrians to navigate through the constant flow of machinery. To reduce forklift hazards among this chaos, consider providing pedestrian-only zones and abiding by OSHA’s floor marking requirements, which leaves plenty of space for forklifts and other machinery as well as pedestrians.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Maintain Best Practices
When operating a forklift, be sure to wear a hard hat, protective eyewear, a high visibility vest, and steel-tipped boots. These safety precautions can help you avoid injury from falling objects, dust, and debris while also allowing pedestrians to see you clearly as you operate the forklift.
Not all forklift hazards are related to collisions or falling objects, however. Operating forklifts over a long period of time may result in a variety of issues for forklift drivers, such as lower back and/or musculoskeletal problems. These issues stem from sitting stiffly in place for a long time while experiencing intense vibrations. To get ahead of these ailments, operators should take regular breaks to stretch and walk around for proper blood flow. Drivers might also consider using ergonomic seating in the forklift, which can help reduce strain on the lower back and legs.
Safety Keeps Your Business Flowing
Good forklift safety practices help your business maintain a consistent, cost-effective workflow. Ensuring the safety of your employees and forklift operators results in fewer interruptions and accidents involving forklifts.
As a premier provider of forklift trucks and warehouse equipment, HTX Material Handling is dedicated to helping you maintain the highest degree of safety in your workplace. We can help you avoid common forklift hazards with quality warehousing solutions. Connect with us today.