Forklifts are a common, highly valued piece of equipment used for the transportation and handling of heavy loads in warehouses and businesses across America. They are used in warehouses, agricultural sites, military and construction sites, and of course industrial job sites all over the world, as such, forklift operators are in high demand. To do their job, operators must always follow safe operating rules.
Those rules include always maintaining control of the forklift, keeping a proper lookout, and operating the forklift at speeds safe for the operation and worksite conditions. Forklift training is critical to prepare operators for the hazards and requirements of the job.
Here are five important safety tips for forklift operation.
1. Secure Your Loads
Before lifting anything, make sure that loads are secure. Injuries from falling items can be very dangerous and should be taken very seriously. Before operating your lift, make sure that the load is secure.
2. Always Wear the Proper Attire
Forklift operators should wear the right clothing to make sure they are staying safe on the job. While engineering and administrative controls are always the first line of defense against injuries in the workplace, personal protective equipment (PPE) plays a critical role for operators. PPE for forklift operation should include eye protection, such as protective glasses, head protection or hard hats, hand protection or safety gloves, earplugs, and proper footwear.
3. Inspect Equipment
Forklifts should be thoroughly inspected before every use. Daily checks with the shift supervisor are recommended to identify and log any problems or defects. Any equipment that requires repair should never be operated. Some of the recommended checks include:
- Test operating controls such as brakes, lights, horn, and steering wheel.
- Check mast and overhead guard for damage.
- Examine tire and fluid levels (hydraulic, brake, engine, fuel, and coolant).
- Check for water, oil, or radiator leaks.
- Ensure the forks are in good condition (e.g. straight, no cracks, no distortion).
- Look for potential hazards.
4. Maintain High Visibility
Keep forks low to the ground to provide clear forward visibility. If the load restricts your visibility, operate the equipment in reverse. Always ensure you have a good view of the rack when you are positioning the load. Additional best practices defined by OSHA are:
- Always make eye contact with pedestrians and other workers.
- Always look in the direction of travel.
- Use rear-view mirrors to boost visibility.
- Use headlights if working at night, outdoors, or in areas where additional lighting is needed.
5. Pay Attention to Stability
Before using a forklift, make sure your hands and shoes are completely dry and sit in a comfortable position with all the controls within reach. Each forklift has a center of gravity – the point where the weight has equal concentration – that it shares with the load it carries. Forklifts are built on a three-point suspension system, called the “stability triangle” that operators must stay within to prevent it from tipping over. The heavier the load, the further out the center of gravity is from the load center, decreasing your forklift’s lifting capacity.
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