In 30 years of construction experience i’d be hard pressed to think of a company I worked for who didn’t have a forklift on at least 1 jobsite everyday. In many ways they are considered the backbone of most construction / manufacturing jobsites. Generally we all feel comfortable operating them on a day to day basis but it is good to refresh ourselves on the proper safety precautions involved with forklifts.
Every year, over 100 people are killed, and more than 20,000 are injured in forklift related accidents.
OSHA mandates strict guidelines associated with the operation of forklifts which are as follows : (29 CFR* 1910.178 & 29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7))
- On all grades, the load and loadengaging means shall be tilted back, if applicable, and raised only as far as needed to clear the road surface. The forks shall not be raised or lowered while the forklift is moving [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(7)(iii)].
- Under all travel conditions, the truck shall be operated at a speed that will permit it to be brought safely to a stop [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(8)].
- The operator shall slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(4)].
- The operator is required to look toward and keep a clear view of the travel path [29 CFR 1910.178(n)(6)].
- Unauthorized personnel shall not be permitted to ride on powered industrial trucks. A safe place to ride shall be provided where the riding of trucks is authorized [29 CFR 1910.178 (m)(3)].
- Forklift trucks shall not be driven up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object [29 1910.178 (m)(1)].
Also keep in mind that anyone under 16 is prohibited from operating a forklift according to the FLSA.
The leading cause of forklift related fatalities is overturn, and in nearly all of these cases, it could have been prevented by the proper use of a seating restraint. Forklift operators, typically in manufacturing environments are required to work around uneven surfaces. Workers for loading docks are at a particular risk and need to pay attention, and wear a seatbelt.
6 of the 7 cases documented in the Case Study completed by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety could have been prevented by the use of Seating Restraints.
Ten Forklift Safety Tips
1. It is imperative that all operators be trained and licensed in forklift operation.
2. Wear your seatbelt at ALL times. Even if you are just getting in for a few seconds.
3. Do not allow anyone to ride on the exterior of the forklift.
4. If your forklift begins to overturn, do not jump out. Simply lean in the opposite direction you are falling.
5. Establish a written inspection and maintenance program.
6. Keep forklifts and pedestrians as far away from each other as possible. If the close interaction of the two is required, paint down yellow / white warning lines so that the forklift operators do not stray onto pedestrian areas.
7. Forklift Operators : Use your senses!
a. WATCH for pedestrians, utilize mirrors to see around corners.
b. Help others LISTEN by using your audible forklift alarms (reverse, etc)
c. Keep your HANDS on the controls at all times, do not eat or drink while you are working in the forklift.
8. Be especially careful on grates, slippery surfaces, organic surfaces, and inclines / declines. You are most at risk here.
9. Keep all operating surfaces in working condition (repair crumbling concrete, etc)
10. Never exceed the safe physical capabilities of the forklift, do not speed, raise the load too high, turn sharp, etc.
I cannot stress enough how important seating restraints are, do not forfeit the rest of your lift for laziness. By not restraining yourself properly, you are saving yourself only SECONDS from the day.
I hope this information has been helpful, as always, feedback is appreciated and welcome!