Forklift Safety – Always or Never
A competently operated forklift provides a safe and productive way to move pallets and loads throughout your yard or facility. On the other hand, being inattentive, executing dangerous maneuvers or engaging in brash activities serves as a harbinger of equipment, facility or product damage, shutdowns and potentially lethal accidents. One way to guard your facility against harmful conduct is to follow these always/never safety tips:
Safe Operation Always:
Wear all necessary personal protective equipment and appropriate clothing. PPE items include a hard hat, protective footwear (i.e., steel toed boots) and high visibility clothing (i.e., safety vests) and are recommended as an absolute minimum wherever employees are working in close proximity to forklifts and other material handling equipment.
Conduct a thorough pre-operation inspection – also known as a circle check – of the unit before operating the forklift. Check to make sure all major systems are in good operating condition and report any issues to your supervisor or service manager. For a quick look at what to check, see our pre-operation inspection infographic. And, to learn how to get the most from these inspections, check out Lucas Liftruck’s blog post on how to maximize the value of pre-operation inspections.
Engage your operator restraint system (i.e., seat belt) and look all around the forklift to make you’re your intended work path is clear before moving.
Look in the direction of travel, watch for pedestrians and maintain an appropriate travel speed for the work environment, location, operating conditions (dry, wet, icy, slippery, loose or rough surfaces, etc.) and the load being carried.
Accelerate and decelerate in a controlled and smooth manner while avoiding sudden starts or stops.
Reduce speed while approaching corners, doorways, intersections and other danger spots.
Sound horn multiple times while approaching blind spots, intersections, entrances and exits.
Whenever you’re finished operating a forklift, lower the forks to the ground, switch off and remove the key, and apply the parking brake before exiting the forklift.
Exit the forklift in a safe manner by facing the forklift and using the steps/handholds to maintain three points of contact on the way in or out of the forklift.
Immediately report any accidents, incidences, near misses or mechanical issues to your direct supervisor.
Safe Operation Never:
Operate a forklift unless you’ve been appropriately trained, certified as a competent operator and authorized to use a specific piece of equipment. Need operator training? Why not find a local Stärke dealership – almost all of our dealers offer safety awareness training and/or practical training.
Attempt to operate the controls of the forklift from outside the cab or operator cabin unless the unit was designed to do so (which is very unlikely).
Place your feet or hands on or near the forklift’s controls to reach a load or anything outside of the cab.
Come to a sudden stop, accelerate suddenly or make an abrupt/sharp turn.
Operate the forklift in unsuitable conditions, such as travelling on uneven ground, cold or caustic work environments, unless your equipment is specifically designed for these applications. For off-road environments, check out Stärke’s 4-wheel drive rough terrain forklifts.
Attempt to diagnose or complete repairs on a forklift regardless of the severity of the issue. Always leave maintenance to a competent and certified forklift mechanic.
Operate a forklift while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (prescription or otherwise), while fatigued or otherwise incapacitated, impaired or inebriated.
Engage in any activity that may distract you from safely operating a forklift. This includes sending a text, making a phone call or using a mobile phone / hand-held device in any way, as well as using earphones or ear buds to listen to music while operating a forklift.
Carrying Loads Always:
Properly assess the load before attempting to lift or move it. Factors to consider include the load’s weight, dimensions, load centre and stability.
Ensure that your load is stable and can be safely lifted before attempting a lift. Make sure that it does not exceed the maximum lift capacity of your forklift.
Remain aware of your surroundings and make sure that there are no overhead obstructions before retrieving an elevated load (i.e., one on a pallet racking system).
Determine the combined weight of the forklift and its load (i.e., its laden weight) and make sure this does not exceed the floor loading limits of the facility before attempting to lift or transport a load.
Make sure the forks are properly positioned (i.e., as wide as possible under the load or pallet) and that at least two-thirds of the load are supported by the forks.
Travel with the forks as low as possible while maintaining appropriate ground clearance. The mast should also be tilted back while travelling with a load.
Travel in reverse and look in the direction of travel if your load obstructs your forward view.
Make sure the forklift has come to a complete stop before raising the load.
Raise and lower loads at a safe and reasonable speed.
Carrying Loads Never:
Attempt to lift a load if you think it might be unsafe – you’re always better to err on the side of caution given the weights and heights involved.
Lift a load that is imbalanced, instable or oversized for your forklift or forks. Even if the load is initially stable, changes in momentum of the angle of the ground may cause it to tip over.
Attempt to lift a load that exceeds the maximum lift capacity for your forklift. Forklift tip overs, one of the most common causes of serious forklift-related injuries, are often caused when a forklift is overloaded.
Try to lift or transport a load on a pallet, or in a container, that is damaged or otherwise compromised.
Travel with an elevated load or mast. While you’ll want to raise the forks high enough to avoid making contact with the ground, travelling with an elevated mast or load increases the chances of losing the load or tipping the forklift.
Leave a forklift unattended with load – whether it is elevated or not.
For more tips, see this post on forklift load-related safety
Operating on Slopes Always:
Travel straight up and straight down a slope, ramp or incline.
Reduce your speed whenever travelling on a slope. Travelling on a slope should be approached with more caution than regular travel and speed should be reduced accordingly.
Keep a load facing uphill when traveling on a ramp or incline, so drive the forklift forks first uphill and drive in reverse when travelling down an incline. The opposite is true when travelling without a load.
Adjust the tilt (where fitted) to suit the gradient and raise the forks to clear the ground.
Operating on Slopes Never:
Attempt to turn a forklift on a ramp or travel across a slope.
Operate a forklift on a slope that exceeds the maximum gradeability (i.e., the percentage of grade the vehicle can ascend or descend in a safe manner) of the unit. This number is found in the operator’s manual provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
Park a forklift or leave it otherwise unattended on a slope – except in the event of an emergency. In an emergency situation where a forklift must be left on a slope, make sure to chock the wheels to prevent the unit from rolling downhill.
Drive a forklift on a ramp while pedestrians are present.
Park a forklift in a safe and secure place away from high traffic areas where the ground is level.
Before shutting off the forklift, tilt the mast forward, lower the forks all the way to the ground, apply the parking brake and put the transmission into neutral. Only after completing these steps should you turn off the engine and remove the keys.
After parking the forklifts, make sure you return the keys to their safe storage place.
If you encountered any minor issues during your shift, report them to your supervisor as soon as you’ve safely parked your lift truck.
Parking a Forklift Never:
Park a forklift on a slope, uneven ground or near aisles, doorways, railway tracks or fire routes. If you need to park the forklift near an elevator, ramp or dock, ensure the forklift is parked parallel to the edge.
Leave the keys inside a parked and unattended forklift.
Park a forklift or leave it unattended while the engine is running.
For more forklift safety tips, check out the following resources:
Frequently Asked Forklift Safety Questions – Blog
The Danger of Forklift Operator Complacency – Blog
Top Forklift Safety Tips – Infographic