Did you know that there are approximately 35,000 serious injuries in the United States each year attributed to forklift operation? These accidents may be prevented by following safety guidelines and rules and paying close attention to details when operating, mounting, and dismounting these powered industrial trucks. As a certified forklift operator who is new on the job, you must remember to follow the rules established in your training each time you use the vehicle. The following is a simple list of rules to abide by that may prevent injury on the job:
1. Inspect the Forklift Before Each and Every Use
Even if the forklift was previously inspected and in perfect working condition one day earlier, never make the assumption that it is fine to operate before the next use. For safety reasons, you must make a thorough inspection before each use. If a defect or repair is in need, do not operate it, as doing so may cause injury to yourself or to others.
Your daily check (or inspection before your shift begins) should include a visual pre-check of battery condition (it should be fully charged) and all bolts and nuts. The bolts and nuts should be tight, with no loose parts. The chain pins should also be tight. Wheels and tires must also be checked for signs of damage. If the tires are pneumatic, check to ensure the air pressure is inflated properly.
Check all brakes and mechanisms as well. Be sure all hoses and cylinders are not leaking, and be sure there is no fluid leakage on the ground underneath the forklift. Visually inspect the overhead guard for signs of damage.
An often-overlooked part of the daily inspection is the horn. Be sure the horn works as it should, or it may not be loud enough to be heard in a noisy working environment. Another aspect not to be overlooked is the condition of the seat belt. Worn safety belts should be replaced before operating the forklift.
2. Do Not Neglect to Wear a Seat Belt
Failure to wear a seat belt while operating the forklift may result in serious injury or death, should you be ejected from the forklift or the vehicle rolls over, crushes, and traps you beneath it.
3. Recognize That Blind Spots May Cause Injury to Others
You need to be extra vigilant of others in your immediate working environment when operating a forklift. Be aware there may be blind spots that inhibit you from a clear view of others in your path. Do not take for granted that pedestrians or coworkers will assume you can see them in your path. It is your responsibility to look in all directions while operating the forklift. Equally important, do not allow others to walk or stand close by while you are operating your machine.
4. Never Operate a Forklift on Uneven or Debris-Strewn Surfaces
Before you operate a forklift, be sure the ground is free of grease, debris, or objects that could cause the vehicle to spin or the tires to lose grip. Objects on the ground may also cause the forklift to become unbalanced or tip over. If you happen to approach a spill, reduce forklift speed and stop the vehicle.
5. Be Mindful When Raising the Load
Do not drive the forklift for a long distance when raising a load. You also need to negotiate a turn carefully and slowly. The center of gravity will become more unsteady as you increase the height of the load, so exercise caution when doing so.
6. Don't Become Distracted While Operating Your Machine
It may seem like a simple rule, but unfortunately it is one that some individuals do not always follow faithfully. This is not a time for multitasking or for performing other activities. Cell phone use, eating, writing, or reading should never be done while you are operating a forklift. Doing so may cause you to lose focus, resulting in an accident.
Using good judgment and being aware of your surroundings and your forklift's condition may prevent serious accidents.