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April 29, 2002

Work Safely Around Forklifts

By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP

Forklift safety Ė what does it have to do with you?

Forklifts are a common site in most plant buildings.† When forklifts are operated safely, they allow the movement of materials quickly, efficiently and without physical strain.† When used incorrectly, forklifts can cause property damage, serious injury and even death.

Forklift operation is not for the inexperienced.† Mishandling a forklift can cause it to tip over or for the load to collapse.† Only authorized and fully trained drivers should be allowed to operate a lift truck.†

As a driver, you must understand that the forklift is built differently from a car and that it handles differently. The forklift can flip over in a sharp turn.† Many forklifts have rear steering which means that the rear swings out when the vehicle is turning.† Another difference is that the forklift is counterweighted at the rear to balance the weight of a load in front.

The ability to drive a car or truck does not qualify you to operate a forklift.† Do not give in to the temptation to climb aboard a forklift in the plant unless you have been properly trained and are authorized to do so.

Safety Reminders About Forklifts

  • Know your vehicle.† Read and understand the operatorís manual.† Inspect your forklift at the start of every shift to determine if it is in good working order and safe to operate.† If it is not, it must be removed from service until it can be repaired.†
  • Drive safely by observing all speed limits and traffic signs.† Stop at intersections with alleys and interior traffic lanes.† Use the horn to warn other traffic at blind corners.† Yield right of way to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
  • Donít turn or stop suddenly.† Be alert to your surroundings to avoid having to make sudden moves.
  • Watch for potholes, slippery surfaces, narrow passages, low clearances, overhead wiring, pipes and ducts.† Know how to handle slopes.† When the truck is loaded, keep the load upgrade.† Back down slopes and go forward up slopes with a load.† When the truck is unloaded, travel with the forks downgrade.
  • Know the load limit of the forklift you are operating and donít exceed it. To load, keep the forks as far apart as possible.† The load must be stable and evenly distributed before attempting to move it.
  • Drive with the load low and the mast tipped back slightly.† When the truck is unloaded, travel with the forks low.
  • Keep arms, hands and legs within the operatorís cage.† Seatbelts should also be worn.† Statistics show that chances of survival in a forklift accident are greater if the driver remains belted inside the forklift.† Some drivers who tried to jump from a falling forklift suffered fatal injuries when the forklift ended up falling on them.
  • Keep away from pedestrians.† Never allow them to walk beside the forklift because they can be hit by the rear of the vehicle as it turns.† Do not allow anyone to walk under a load.† If necessary, barricade the work area to keep pedestrians out.
  • Never carry passengers Ė they can fall off and be injured.
  • Observe speed limits, slowing down for corners, rough or sloping surfaces and large loads.† Honk your horn at intersections.
  • Park your forklift on a flat area, away from traffic.† Turn off the engine, set the brake and leave the forks flat on the floor.† If necessary block the wheels.† Do not leave a loaded vehicle or an elevated load.

Forklifts are an important part of industry today, making it possible to move heavy materials quickly and easily.† But, like all machinery, the forklift must be handled with respect.† Please take the time to ensure that your employees are qualified and trained to operate a forklift safely.

The OSHA regulations for forklifts are included in the Powered Industrial Trucks regulation, 29 CFR 1910.178.† You can access the OSHA regulations at www.osha.gov.

Copyright © 2002 by WorkCare™ All Rights Reserved

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Original articles © WorkCare™; Orange, California.