Each year, roughly 25 percent of forklift-related deaths are caused by an overturned forklift, as reported by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (1). Other forklift truck accidents lead to significant injuries and damage–and many are completely avoidable. To reduce the risk of accidents, here are the top ten tips for increasing forklift safety.
1. Qualified Operators Only
Only individuals who have received proper training, authorization, and licensing are permitted to operate material handling equipment such as forklifts.
2. Daily Inspections
To maintain proper function and maximize forklift safety, forklift trucks should be inspected thoroughly before every shift, including performing designated daily safety checks. Problems should be reported to the shift supervisor immediately, and the truck should be removed from service.
3. Plan According to the Operating Environment
Before driving a forklift, the operator should inspect the planned route for any hazards or obstacles. Loose materials on the floor should be moved aside to create a clear path. Overhead clearances should be compared to the height of the forklift when carrying the designated load. Bridge plates and loading ramps should be checked to ensure they can handle the combined weight and width of the forklift and load. Obstacles such as ramps, train tracks, and elevators should be navigated slowly and properly. Bumps, holes, wet areas, and sharp turns should be avoided; an alternate, easier route is preferable, if possible.
4. Maintain Load Stability
Before picking up a load, the operator should inspect the load for balance and stability. The load should be as symmetrical and secure as possible with a low center of gravity, and it should be carried as far back on the forks as possible rather than on the tips. When driving on ramps, the load should be kept higher than the body of the forklift; ramps should be driven up forwards and driven down in reverse.
5. Respect Forklift Capacity
To maximize forklift safety, the operator should know the load capacity as displayed on the rating plate and avoid overloading the truck. Counterweights should never be used to try to increase the load capacity, which includes the weight of any attachments.
6. Maintain Clear Visibility
To ensure clear forward visibility, the load should be short and carried low to the ground; if visibility is restricted, then the forklift should be driven in reverse slowly to improve visibility, except when driving up ramps. If visibility is reduced due to obstacles such as high stacks or corners, then the operator should stop and confirm it is safe to proceed; a lookout may be required to ensure safety.
7. Follow Company Safety Rules and Procedures
The operator should be familiar with and obey all company regulations regarding material handling and forklift safety such as obtaining regular forklift training, wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), keeping the seatbelt fastened during operation, following the speed limit, and only carrying passengers when a man basket is attached.
8. Cross Pedestrian Areas Carefully
When approaching areas with high pedestrian traffic, the operator should slow down and remain vigilant of any passersby. At intersections, corners, stairways, doors, exits and entrances, the operator should stop, sound the horn, and watch for pedestrians before proceeding.
9. Refuel Safely
Forklifts should be refueled only at specially designated locations; the engine should be switched off, and open flames and sparks, including smoking, must be avoided.
10. End the Shift Properly
When the shift ends, the operator should park the forklift truck in an authorized or designated area. The forks should be lowered fully to the ground, and the parking brake should be applied. The truck should be turned off, and the key should be removed from the ignition and stored in its proper location.