Work Safely Around Forklifts
By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP
Forklift safety Ė what does it have to do with
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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.
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