June is National Safety Month, and on June 8th we celebrated National Forklift Safety Day. For us, forklift safety doesn’t just fall on one day and safety in general is a year-round thing not just one month. In honor of it being safety month, we wanted to put together various safety tips, from operating the forklift to working on a warehouse floor with forklifts buzzing around. Our goal with this article is to help make your workplace safer for everyone!
As an operator, your forklift is the most important piece of equipment you use each shift. It’s a piece of equipment with a lot of working components but it can also be a hazard if something goes wrong. Going through a safety checklist prior to operating your forklift can assure that it is safe to use for that shift. These daily inspections are not only an added safety measure but can help with forklift upkeep helping to spot problems and avoid further issues.
When operating a forklift and moving through the workspace, sound the horn wherever pedestrian workers may be standing or walking through. Sounding a horn for other operators or pedestrian workers on the floor, to alert them of when and where you’re moving around the workspace. For the workers on the floor, know where the forklifts operate and pay attention to the sounds, signs, and lights!
There’s more than just looking out for fellow workers on the floor when operating your forklift. If you’re going to turn the forklift completely in another direction, you should come to a complete stop and turn the truck. When turning slightly with a full load on the forks be sure to slow down to a safe speed to prevent the load from sliding off or the truck from tipping over. It is also important to put the forks down when turning the forklift, don’t make turns with raised forks. When turning you need to be mindful of your forks and the clearance you have from stationary objects; columns, racking, etc.
When traveling through the warehouse or work yard with a load on your forks, you should slow down to a safe speed. Going too fast with a load on the forks can lead to the forklift tipping over, or the load falling off if you have to make a sudden stop for any reason. Being able to stop safely while carrying a load is important, think of it as hauling something behind or in your car/truck. Aside from what the operator can control, the conditions in which you’re operating need to be taken into account. If the forklift is primarily operated outside a wet surface can become an issue, meaning the tires can have less traction. Slippery conditions provide a whole new challenge for operators from rain to snow/ice.
While we’re on the subject of operating your forklift in areas with heavy foot traffic. Pay attention to your location in the warehouse or out in the yard. All forklifts should be outfitted with safety equipment to alert those around the workspace; horns, blue lights, sidelights. The warehouse itself should always be marked with signs notifying workers of a forklift crossing, walkways should be marked out to help keep those walking on the floor out of harm’s way from traffic. We understand that sometimes you can get caught up in a rush and might look for the quickest way to get through the workspace, this doesn’t mean it’s okay to walk/run under an elevated load. It is also not wise to quickly cut in front of moving forklifts, remember you can stop faster than they can.
Time to shift focus around loading and unloading areas of your warehouse/work area. Whether you’re driving up or down the incline, you should always keep the load upgrade. The difference comes in the direction of the forklift: going up you should be facing forward, but going down you should be in reverse. Two things that should NEVER be done when driving on an incline: don’t attempt to make a turn and never put the load downgrade.
When driving the forklift around the area where loading docks are located, make sure to keep a safe distance from the loading dock when the dock area is not in use. It always helps to make sure the loading dock edge is visible to give the operator an idea of where it is. The dock area should always be maintained, clear and dry to avoid poor traction and possibly running into an object. This area can be one of the busiest in a warehouse when shipments are coming in and going out rapidly. It’s very safe and helpful to know that if you’re operating in and out of a docked trailer that has no truck attached, make sure it is chocked up properly to avoid an accident from the constant shifting weight of the forklift and load being taken on and off.
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