In a warehouse, the forklift is one of the most often utilized pieces of equipment. These powerful industrial vehicles lift and move cargo with precision. Yet no matter how powerful forklifts are, operating any industrial machine involves certain risks. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, forklifts cause 61,800 minor injuries, 34,900 serious injuries, and 85 deaths per year. With an estimated one million forklifts in use, it’s critical to ensure that crews are trained on the common forklift hazards and control measures.
Working with a forklift is difficult, and not everyone is capable of doing so. Without sufficient training, getting behind the wheel can lead to accidents, injuries, and workplace disasters.
Forklift Safety Hazards
You need to be aware of all the hazards associated with forklifts, especially if you’re using or training others to use one. Working with a forklift can provide several risks. Here are 12 of the more common ones:
The majority of forklifts can be equipped with a variety of accessories. Forklift attachments are a common source of danger, having a direct impact on the lift’s operating clearances and safe lifting capacity. Poorly maintained attachments can be dangerous. Worn-out tynes, strained chains, or other defective attachment pieces can also put the operator at risk.
When using a forklift, forklift blind spots can be risky since unexpected collisions can result in significant injuries. Pedestrians may be injured if the operator does not observe caution. The operator’s view is impeded when the system is completely loaded. Forklift operators may also have difficulty seeing due to poor lighting or adverse weather conditions such as rain.
3.Docks and Ramps
It may appear that operating a forklift on a ramp, slope, or incline is simple, but it can often result in forklift tip-overs. Vacant docks, or docks that are open but have no cargo truck trailer parked on them, are a serious safety hazard. When the forklift is carrying a weight that partially conceals the driver’s vision, straying into a four-foot drop can be especially dangerous. The docks, ramps, and lifts will have to be properly maintained and installed with safety barriers.
Litter, puddles, uneven ground, and any other floor obstructions can all be hazards when the forklift working area’s floor is in poor condition. A forklift can skid over wet and slick surfaces, while fissures and potholes in the ground might cause the unit to topple over.
The gas or other chemicals involved in refuelling or recharging a forklift presents possible safety issues. Both diesel and propane are highly combustible and can create fires or explosions if not handled properly. Recharging batteries can result in a fire hazard due to the fumes produced, as well as an electrocution hazard if they are wet or wires are exposed. There are also potential ignition sources such as cigarettes or instruments that spark, which should be kept away from refuelling sites as a forklift safety precaution.
A forklift, like any other machine or equipment, requires regular maintenance. The chance of an accident when maintenance is not properly performed is high. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Hazard and Safety recommends inspection every 200 hours. When operating this equipment, worn forks, faulty lights, defective alarms, or bad chains can pose a significant threat.
7.Improper Operation and Use
Speeding or swerving while operating a forklift poses a major risk to operators, loads, and the forklift itself. Accidents such as collisions or unit tip-overs, which can result in injuries, fatalities, and product and equipment damage, are much more likely to occur if you operate them inappropriately. Forklifts should only be used for the purpose for which they were developed and engineered: lifting and moving palletized and large products safely. Attempting to utilize the forklift for other reasons dramatically increases the likelihood of an accident.
Forklifts can also be hampered by overhead barriers such as mezzanine levels and low-hanging ceilings. If the loads are raised too high, a collision with obstruction may occur, resulting in damage to the load, the machine, and the overhead obstruction.
Pedestrians working near forklifts are a huge hazard since they can be gravely harmed if the unit strikes them. Not everyone is informed of the safety procedures and may end up in a perilous scenario. Pedestrians may cause accidents themselves, or the forklift may attempt to move past them and wind up somewhere it shouldn’t be.
Each forklift has a maximum load limit. Unsecured loads and overloading the forklift over its maximum limit is a significant hazard. When the load is lifted by the tynes, it loses stability, increasing the risk that the cargo may drop and the forklift will tip over, jeopardizing the worker and potentially ruining the load and forklift.
Forklift Safety Tips in the Workplace
When operating forklifts in the workplace, safety should always be the main consideration. Because of the various risks and dangers that forklifts pose, all precautions must be implemented to provide safe working conditions.
- Get Forklift Certification
Because most mishaps are caused by a lack of training, only people who have been trained and licensed in line with OSHA requirements should operate a forklift. Employers should also assess their employees’ performance every 3 years at the very least, and augment training with lectures, videos, software training, and demonstrations.
- Check the Equipment Daily
Before each use, a forklift hazard assessment should be performed to identify and document any problems or faults. Among other things, it is important to check the brakes, lights, horns, and steering wheels, as well as the fluid levels. Any equipment that needs to be repaired should not be used.
- Maintain Clear Visibility
To offer a clear forward view, keep forks low to the ground. Operate the machine in reverse if the load limits your view. When setting the load, make sure you’ve got a clear view of the rack. Maintain eye contact with other workers and pedestrians. When operating at night, outdoors, or in situations where additional lighting is required, use headlights.
- Have a Floor Marking System
The use of a floor marking system and the implementation of a forklift safety work procedure can lower accidents tremendously. Physical risks, such as locations vulnerable to falling or tripping, should be marked in yellow, while fire hazards, fire equipment, and emergency switches should be marked in red. Wayfinders and signs should be placed throughout the site to keep pedestrians off forklift tracks, direct forklifts down safe routes, and increase traffic flow.
- Operate Within Maximum Capacity
Know your forklift’s and any attachments’ capacities. Avoid transporting loads that are heavier than the forklift’s counterweight. Overloading a forklift can cause the back wheels to lift off the ground and the entire machine to topple, injuring employees and inflicting damage to equipment and materials.
- Keep a Safe Operating Distance
Always be aware of the machinery that surrounds you on the job site. If at all possible, avoid operating a forklift near other equipment. Maintaining a safe distance allows you to move safely and avoid other machines that may pose danger to your forklift or load.
- Ensure the Forklift’s Stability
Every forklift has a shared centre of gravity with the cargo it carries, which is the
spot where the weight is evenly distributed. Forklifts have a three-point suspension system known as the “stability triangle,” which operators must maintain to avoid tipping. The larger the weight, the further the centre of gravity is from the load centre, reducing the lifting capacity of your forklift.
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