Top 10 Forklift Safety Tips
Forklift safety is absolutely essential to everyone in a workplace where the use of this type of machinery is frequent. Whether you operate the forklift or not, it is important for all employees to be aware of the potential dangers surrounding forklifts and be up to speed with the safety procedures in place. On average in the UK, five people are hospitalised following forklift related accidents every working day. These hospitalised workers are often left with life-changing injuries which include amputations, degloving, and fractures, and are sometimes even fatal. Forklift trucks account for 25% of transport incidents in the workplace and over half of those injured are pedestrians.
A forklifts primary use is to lift heavy materials or objects and move them to a different location. They are most commonly used in warehouses, construction sites, farming, and anywhere else which involves the transportation of heavy stock or materials.
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While there are risks from the trucks themselves, the most common cause of forklift accidents is operator error. The following guide has our top 10 tips on forklift truck safety with an aim to reduce the risks involved during forklift operation and in turn, reduce the number of injuries and fatalities.
1. Receive Full Forklift Training
It is imperative that all forklift operators have the appropriate training in order to gain the required licence. Forklifts are a complex type of machinery and by completing the relevant training, workers not only learn how to operate the equipment they are in charge of, but they also learn how to do so safely and legally. Most commonly, there are three types of forklift training course available depending on your previous experience – novice, experienced, and refresher. Employers have a responsibility to ensure all members of staff have the correct level of training before using work equipment. Each operator should be evaluated by their employer at least once every three years to confirm that their performance remains in line with the evolving safety practices. This is to be supported by any necessary demonstrations and videos, or even a refresher course.
It has been estimated that a significant number of forklift incidents, around 70%, could be prevented if companies enforced more rigorous training policies.
2. Pre Vehicle Checks
Before using a forklift, the operator should do a routine check on the vehicle for anything unusual. Forklifts endure huge amounts of stress when carrying heavy loads so it is important to check that the machinery is in good condition before use.
Things to look out for:
Bent / cracked forks
Frequent use over time can cause damage to the forks but this can be accelerated by lifting loads that weigh more than the vehicles maximum capacity. Loads which are lifted by cracked forks have a greater risk of falling because the forks can snap off completely under stress. When forks break, it is better to replace them altogether rather than repair them because after the structural integrity has weakened, the maximum capacity will be unknown.
Damaged / worn tyres
Forklifts can hold huge loads and it is the tyres that bare this weight, along with the weight of the vehicle itself. It is important to check tyres regularly for any signs of extreme wear, chunking, or tearing. Damage on tyres can cause the forklift to become unstable which increases the risk of it flipping and injuring the operator or pedestrians.
Leaks / drips
Leaking fluids can be a sign of a much bigger problem. The colour of the fluid often indicates which part of the vehicle requires attention and can result in more serious damage if not fixed immediately. Many of these liquids are flammable and if forklifts are used whilst leaking, it is likely that this fluid will travel around the building creating a fire hazard. Also, workers are more likely to slip and injure themselves where there is liquid on the floor.
Faulty seat belt
Most modern forklifts are fitted with seat belts; however, many smaller companies do not enforce the use of them. During accidents involving forklifts tipping over, operators wearing faulty seat belts or those who aren’t wearing a seat belt at all can fall and get caught underneath the vehicle. The weight of the forklift is enough to cause life-changing or even fatal damage to the driver which could be prevented by wearing a functioning seat belt.
Damaged overhead guard
Overhead guards are a way of protecting drivers from anything which may fall from above. This cage-like structure is designed so that no harm will come to the operator without obscuring their view. If the overhead guard has broken in any way then it may not protect the operator to its maximum potential during an accident which could be fatal.
It is also important to test the operating controls which include the brakes, steering wheel, and lights. It is useful to use other senses as well as vision when inspecting a forklift truck, for example, you can listen out for any strange noises or smell smoke coming from the vehicle. Any faults or signs of excessive wear should be reported and the forklift must not be used until repaired by a qualified mechanic.
We would also advise that you prepare the forklift for you personally before you begin driving anywhere which includes adjusting mirrors and your seat. By completing this before you set off, you are less likely to become distracted whilst operating the forklift.
3. Create a Safer Environment
A great way to increase forklift truck safety is to create lanes around the workplace designated specifically to pedestrians or forklifts. These lanes can be created using markings on the floor or by installing a guard rail system which would protect pedestrians even further. This can also ensure that the routes taken by forklifts are suitable and clear of debris.
Other items that would be beneficial to install around the workplace include signs and warnings to inform operators of any maximum floor loadings and height restrictions. Mirrors on corners would also be useful to make it easier to spot anything coming in the opposite direction.
4. Wear Protective Clothing
Workers should dress appropriately in clothing that is not only protective but visible. Protective garments for both forklift operators and pedestrians includes hard-hats, safety shoes, high-visibility jackets, and no loose clothing which could get caught on the forks. This will help to prevent potential accidents, as well as protect workers should an incident occur.
High-visibility jackets are crucial to helping operators spot pedestrians whilst driving a forklift and should be worn at all times by all workers in the facility.
5. Keep Your Forks Low
When driving a forklift without a load, the forks should be kept low at all times but remain high enough so that they do not touch the ground. This is because if the forks are low in the event of an accident, it will be the worker’s legs that become injured; however, higher forks may impact the chest or face which could lead to a fatality.
Parked forklifts should have their forklifts on the ground. While this creates a slight trip hazard, it is likely that you will recover your balance and it will not result in serious injury, which could be the case if the forks were not lowered.
The forks should also remain low and titled back when carrying a load. By doing this, the centre of gravity of the forklift moves further towards the rear of the vehicle which increases forklift safety and stability. Higher loads can throw off the balance and cause the forklift to flip, resulting in a serious or fatal injury to the driver. In addition to this, the driver’s view may become obstructed by the load the higher the forks are raised which could lead to pedestrian injury.
6. Secure the Load
Unsafe loads are one of the most common reasons for forklift accidents. Loads that are too high, too heavy, unevenly balanced, or not secured properly can cause loads to fall or forklifts to tip over, injuring the operator and damaging the load.
Follow these simple rules about loading procedures:
• Keep the load low and tilted back whilst moving
• Do not move loads that are damaged
• Do not exceed maximum weight limits
• Do not pick up a load unless it has been secured by wrapping or ropes
• Make sure the weight of the load is evenly distributed and positioned across both forks
• Check for obstacles overhead before stacking or lifting
• Make sure the view of the driver is not obstructed by the load
7. Avoid Hazards
The layout of warehouses and factories can be very different to one another so it is important for forklift drivers to familiarise themselves with the area and routes in which they will be driving. This allows operators to identify anything that could become hazardous when driving a forklift and gives them more of an opportunity to react accordingly, whether that’s slowing on approach or avoiding the area altogether. These hazards include but are not limited to, uneven or slippery surfaces, loose objects on the ground, doorways, and corners.
Pedestrians and other forklifts can also be hazardous, particularly in areas where visibility is limited like on a corner for example. The horn can be useful in these parts of the workplace so that everyone nearby is aware of your location and can keep a safe distance to help to avoid collisions.
8. No Additional Passengers
Operators must never allow passengers to ride on the forklift unless there is an additional seat and seatbelt fitted. Forklifts have been specifically designed to carry loads and so workers must not be lifted on the forks. People should only ever be lifted when using a secure work platform and cage while following the correct operating and safety instructions.
Standing below or too close to raised forks is also unsafe which is why pedestrians also need to be aware of the protocols in place. If a load is unstable, it could fall and puts any nearby pedestrians at risk of being injured or even killed if falling from a height. Additionally, there is a risk of raised forks being lowered onto the workers underneath which could also result in fatalities.
9. Do Not Operate Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
It is obvious that operating a forklift is a complex job even when sober. The addition of alcohol or drugs can drastically reduce productivity as well as forklift safety. Whether the substances are legal or not, they produce side effects which can ultimately alter your judgement and could lead to unnecessary accidents. Employers need to educate workers at regular intervals throughout the year on the severe impacts drugs and alcohol can have. Companies can also monitor employees by introducing random drug tests, not only on forklift operators but all other workers too.
10. Post Shift Procedure
After use, forklifts need to be recharged if electric or refuelled in specific areas with the engine switched off. The forklift then needs to be returned to a designated parking space. These zones typically do not block any paths, entrances, or exits. The forks need to be lowered so that they sit on the floor and the parking brake must be on. The keys should be removed from the ignition so that the forklift cannot be operated by anyone that is unauthorised to do so.
Checklist – At a Glance
- All operators need to be properly trained.
- Appropriate clothing should always be worn.
- The right truck should be chosen for a given workspace in terms of size, load capability and fuel.
- Equipment should be regularly examined and maintained.
- Speed restrictions should be strictly enforced.
- Forklifts should not be started until the driver has checked thecontrols and is seated correctly.
- Forklifts should only be driven in designated areas.
- Drivers should constantly be aware of their surroundings and have excellent visibility at all times.
- Hazards should be well marked and avoided.
- Loads should be kept stable and secure.
- Safe stopping distances should be understood and observed.
- Loads should be thoroughly checked and evenly distributed before they are moved.
- Trucks should be used responsibly to carry designated loads only.
- Pedestrians should always avoid walking under or near the forks.
- Forklifts should never be overloaded under any circumstance.
- Trucks should be parked in designated areas when not in use, with the key removed.
- Forklifts should not be left unattended whilst engines are running.
WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN OPERATING A FORKLIFT
A number of videos showing one forklift operator lifting another to reach greater heights have recently gone viral on the internet. While some may think this is hilarious, it is actually extremely dangerous and is not recommended! This kind of behaviour can not only lead to damage to the forklifts and other materials but can also result in debilitating injuries or death to those involved and nearby. There are much safer alternative methods you can use to complete jobs at larger heights with the most obvious being to get an appropriately sized forklift.
Safety in Different Industries
As previously mentioned, forklifts are used in a number of different industries – all of which have strict safety regulations in place. These sectors include warehousing, farming, construction, retail, and landscaping. It is important to use forklift trucks which are suited to the particular environment in which they are being used. For example, heavy duty rough terrain forklifts would be required in agriculture due to frequent outdoor usage on uneven ground. It is important to research before purchasing to discover which forklift trucks are best for your industry.
Buying Your Forklift
It is important to purchase your forklift with a trusted and reliable provider. Trucks Direct UK is a well-respected, credible forklift provider with a number of years in the industry, as well as providing great value for money. We offer a wide selection of forklift trucks suited to all industries, including those made by leading forklift brands. For any advice, please call us on 0121 314 1761.