National Forklift Safety Day is officially here and it's a perfect time to review your proper operating procedures, significance of operator training, and essential daily equipment checks.
Today, the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) is holding their 6th annual event in Washington, DC. You may want to initiate your own day of remembrance that focuses on best forklift practices if you're a dealer, lift truck manufacturer, or are associated with the forklift industry through any other services or products. The idea is to help both warehouse workers and customers improve their safety habits.
The Safe Use of Forklifts
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), strict adherence to a standard safety routine eliminates accidents, such as "collisions, falls, tip-overs, and struck-by conditions." Implementing and following proper procedures each time you or your employees operate a forklift will help minimize risks.
- Secure loads on the lift before operating. If they fall, they may crush drivers or pedestrians.
- Only carry cargo on the lift, not people. Someone standing on the forks can easily fall off and be seriously injured or killed.
- Balance the load and stay within the speed limit to avoid forklift tip over.
- Avoid hitting pedestrians or other vehicles by maintaining clear visibility.
- Stay within floor markings to avoid collisions.
The Value of Operator Training
The goal is to keep your facility as safe and accident-free as possible. Only employees trained according to the OSHA requirements as outlined in the 29 CFR 1910.178 standards for materials handling and storage of powered industrial trucks may operate your company's forklift. Some general guidelines are offered here:
- The training program must include the concepts of safe operating principles, vehicle types, forklift hazards, and OSHA's general safety requirements.
- A trained forklift driver must demonstrate his or her knowledge of safe operating practices by passing a workplace evaluation.
- Employers are required to provide appropriate training, which might include a combination of formats, such as software training, lecture, written material, video, practical exercise, and demonstrations.
- Employers need to evaluate each operator's performance and competence to operate an industrial truck.
- Employers are obligated to certify that they've provided all appropriate training and evaluations for each driver. This is a requirement every three years.
While Operating a Forklift
While behind the wheel of a forklift, stay alert and aware. Some precautions are listed here:
- The forks should be as far under the load as possible.
- Drive with the load as low as possible so you can see where you're going.
- Drive in reverse if the load is blocking your view in the forward driving position.
- Pay attention to all signs and floor markings to avoid collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles.
- Honk the horn at pedestrian crossings and vehicle intersections.
The Need for Daily Equipment Checks
One of the best ways to avoid workplace accidents involving forklifts is to routinely perform an inspection before getting behind the wheel. Some key points are listed below:
- Perform daily inspections of each forklift in use. Begin with a walk around for a visual assessment.
- Check water and oil levels. Look for any obvious leaks.
- Check the tires.
- Inspect the forks themselves, making sure they are level and in good operating order.
- Check the steering wheel, horn, lights, and brakes.
- Inspect the surrounding area for any obstacles or hazards.
General Shop Safety
All employees should have safety training regarding the proper precautions to take when inside the warehouse. Some to consider include the following:
- Post signs in high traffic and high need areas. Signage, such as forklift safety signs, forklift procedure signs, and aisle markers.
- Color-coded floor marking systems are an excellent way to easily identify where to be on the lookout for people and vehicles.
- In addition to floor markings, intersections should also have safety signs.
- Secure the forklift when not in use with a steering wheel padlock. A lockout system also keeps the forklift from inadvertently starting up.
Floor Marking Systems
OSHA does state that "permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked" in 29 CFR 1910.22(b)(2) of their rules and regulations guidelines. They do not, however, prescribe the colors you choose with the exception of safety color codes.
- Red signifies all fire-related hazards. That distinction includes safety equipment as well as flammable liquids. It also encompasses any emergency buttons or switches.
- Yellow is the color used to distinguish a physical hazard. A place where a person could stumble, trip, or get caught in between two objects would fit in this category.
National Safety Day Events
In the previous years, ITA has provided an educational conference that offers the opportunity to listen and speak with industry leaders and policymakers.
Manufacturers of lift trucks, AGVs, similar equipment in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are represented at the main safety day event. In 2018, members and invited guests attended an afternoon educational program that discussed current OSHA regulations and policies for forklift operators, international economic affairs, and Congressional activities as they relate to lift truck manufacturers and importers.
Take advantage of this day to set aside specifically for forklift discussion and safety. Plan events and break-out sessions for your employees to participate in and refresh their knowledge and skills. Perhaps, you can arrange for a presentation by a local business leader or official. It's a team-building opportunity that opens the door to improved communication.
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