Working Safely With Forklifts
Unsafe conditions are only a contributing factor in 10% of incidents experienced – it is employee actions or lack of corrective actions that contribute to 88% of all incidents. Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility from the CEO to the construction site. Construction work is inherently dangerous. In South Africa, this is reflected in the alarming incident and accident statistics in the construction industry.
Particularly, operating with a forklift and powered industrial trucks; they present numerous hazards that endanger both pedestrians and drivers. While they move heavy loads and increase efficiency, forklifts can also cause serious injuries when they are used unsafely. It is averaged, two construction workers are killed every week and anecdotal evidence indicates that employees acting unsafely is the cause of 80% of accidents, resulting in injuries or damage to equipment.
Here are some precautions for how forklifts are used in the workplace, common hazards:
General Precautions and Rules
- Before each shift, examine forklifts for safety purposes.
- Avoid operating a vehicle that requires maintenance or repair (which should be provided by the respective qualified experts).
- Inform the shift supervisor of any identified issues, problems, questions, or concerns.
- Forklifts operate uniquely; since they steer from the rear, the back of the vehicle needs a wide sweep to turn.
- Never leave an operating forklift unattended. In fact, leaving keys in an unattended forklift (or, thus, leaving on the ignition of this vehicle) is illegal, and has dire consequences as a safety hazard, even without the actual occurrence of an accident.
- Know and never exceed the lifting capacity of the forklift.
- Forklifts must follow designated roadways at the work site.
- Work-site rules and regulations must be adhered to.
- Keep hands and feet away from the cross members of the mast- should the mast be lowered and catch your hand, you’ll suffer from serious injury.
- Forklifts need to be refuelled- after, of course, they’ve been turned off-at designated and well-ventilated locations.
- Forklifts which are not in use should be carefully parked, with the parking brake applied.
Safe and Smooth Operating
- As the operator of a forklift, you must receive thorough forklift training and certification before being entrusted with the heavy machinery.
- Be alert and attentive to your surrounding environment at all times with these forklift safety tips:
- Avoid hazards on the floor; slippery or unstable surfaces, bumps, holes, etc.
- Driving over small, scattered hazards (like shards of wood) may make the load shift and
- topple, or knock you out of place (and out of control)
- Direct your forklift forward when driving up ramps, but go downhill in reverse.
- Don’t load/unload on the ramp.
- Be alert others of your coming with a horn or your voice.
- Keep a safe distance from people and from other trucks
- Stop only when you have enough space to pause safely.
- Note any changes to your operating environment.
Eliminate Dangers to the Surrounding People
- If you’re driving, always keep an eye out for other people around you, especially those on foot.
- Avoid fast moves. Always drive, stop, turn, and lift or lower the forks slowly and as smoothly as possible.
- Sudden turns can toss off a load or even the entire forklift off balance, which make it a much greater hazard for the operator and especially the surrounding people.
- Be especially careful when navigating ramps, inclines and grades.
- Always check carefully before turning or backing up the vehicle. Keep in mind that people may be walking or standing on one of your blind sides (i.e. behind the vehicle) or obstructed by other obstacles;
- No one should be allowed to stand or walk beneath or upon the forks, whether they’re emptied or loaded.
When Loads Become Hazards
- Most accidents with forklifts occur by plummeting loads which crush the person below.
- Place loads back by the mast, where they’ll balance most stable; never place loads at the front of the forks.
- Never load trucks beyond approved capacity.
- Always travel with the forks positioned as low as possible for increased stability and protection. Never travel with forks that are elevated and/or tilted forward.
- Ensure that the load is stable or strapped in place before moving the vehicle. The load must be balanced on both forks.
- Avoid decaying, warped, or otherwise damaged skids and pallets.
- When stocking, be vigilant for slipping, unstable, or toppling loads. Have a good view of and easy access to the rack or location where you must position your load.
- If your load obstructs your view, operate the forklift in reverse to improve visibility and operation control. If visibility remains obstructed, enlist the help of a lookout or helper to guide you between obstacles and people.