You get to drive a forklift at work. How awesome is that – you’re behind the wheel of a 14,000 pound beast that can lift an average of one to five tons. The warehouse is your highway. But, with such great power comes the potential danger that could possibly injure or kill you or those around you.
There are nearly 100 fatalities and more than 95,000 injuries every year from accidents while operating forklifts. According to the Industrial Truck Association, 90% of all forklifts will be involved in some type of accident during their useful life. With so much power and likely danger at your fingertips, here are some ways you can stay safe while operating forklifts.
Before You Start Your Engines
Being properly trained in operating a forklift should be done before ever climbing into one. It’s illegal for anyone younger than 18 to operate a forklift, and some states require proper training and certification before anyone can operate a lift truck. Make sure you have all of the proper qualifications before handling heavy equipment. If you don’t, get with your supervisor to set up training times.
Your employer should also have a checklist of things to look for before starting a forklift. Things like fuel/battery power levels, tire conditions, control panel testing, etc. should be checked before every shift and logged. If anything isn’t working properly, make sure a manager knows immediately. Also, honk your horn to make sure it works, check to see if safety lights are working, and confirm the backup alert works once you have cleared everything else.
Know Where to Go
You really need to see where you are going. Make sure your path is always clear, dry, and open. Some forklifts can be going 10 mph, which takes about 22 feet to come to a complete stop. That’s why you don’t want to have anybody between the forklift and a hard surface like a table, bench, or wall. The same goes for passing a slower forklift. You don’t know what’s ahead and you might not have the stopping distance to avoid a collision.
If the load blocks your view, drive in reverse unless you’re going up a slope. In that case, have a spotter with you on the side to help guide you. The spotter shouldn’t be in the forklift with you because that extra weight can cause the forklift to tip over, which is the most common forklift accident.
Maneuvering slopes and inclines can be tricky when operating forklifts. If you come to an incline with a load, always travel with the load pointing uphill. But if you don’t have a load, always travel with the forks pointing downhill.
You’ll Take the Slow Road, and I’ll Take the Low Road
Almost every worker faces deadlines and time limits for projects, but that doesn’t mean you can cut corners – literally. Always turn corners slowly and honk your horn so anyone on the other side will know you’re coming. Honking the horn should be done when entering or exiting any area like going from outside to inside or going through any open doorways in order to access a different part of the building. You may be in a rush, but quick corners lead to quick tipovers and serious injuries.
Another way of keeping your forklift from tipping over is to keep your forks as low to the ground as possible when moving. Keeping the weight of your lift toward the bottom will give you a better center of gravity and more stability.
Forklifts can be a very useful and necessary tool to do your job, but remember these safety lessons so that you can keep riding your forklift free of injury and danger.