Worker in forklift, moving products in warehouse

Forklift Safety

DF SafetyWorkplace Safety

Since DF Safety is now offering hands-on equipment training, we have decided to do a series offering safety tips for the different types of equipment we teach. This week, we will talk about forklifts.

Forklifts are a very common piece of equipment used in virtually all industries. There are a variety of types, from small warehouse forklifts to large all terrain construction models, with different features and applications. 

Let’s talk qualifications.

Who can run a forklift? Workers using forklifts must be adequately trained, suitably qualified and have sufficient experience to use the equipment safely. In general, this involves taking a training course, getting some practice (with supervision), and having your employer sign you off as being competent to work on your own. 

Remember! Being certified on a small counterbalance forklift does not mean you can now jump on a large or specialty model and go. You need to read the manufacturer’s manual and familiarize yourself with each new machine and machine type. Different manufacturers have different approaches to controls and cab layout.

Now that you are competent, what are your next steps?

The first thing you should consider when running a forklift is a hazard assessment of your work area. Walk the route of travel if you are unfamiliar. Is the surface bumpy or smooth? Is it crowded, or congested? Will you interact with other equipment, workers, or even the public? Figure this all out and fill out your field level hazard assessment form!

Your next step is to inspect the forklift itself. This should happen at the beginning of each work shift. Do a walkaround looking for obvious issues such as tire damage, leaking hoses or hydraulics, damage to cable or wires, issues with the tines or mast, windshield cracks, etc. Next, you can get into the engine compartment and start checking out the fluid levels and components, everything in the cab and, finally, check all the forklift’s functions. Use the checklist provided by the manufacturer, and if you find a critical defect, steering or brake issues for example, tag the forklift as out of service.

When operating, make sure you understand the safe working load for the forklift and know the weight of the loads you are carrying. You can often get the weight information from a bill of lading. Standard items have easy to reference charts on their weight as well. Think about your loads and their stability. Can you pick up and go, or do you need to tie back or secure the load? Is the load hazardous or easily damaged? 

Be wise when travelling. Carefully watch for people and equipment. It is important to understand the limits of your machine in terms of operation on slopes. If needed, use a spotter when necessary. A key safety tip is to never let anyone hitch a ride on the side of your forklift. The only safe place to ride is in the cab, in the operator’s chair, with your seatbelt fastened.

At the end of the day, make sure you follow the equipment shutdown sequence written by the manufacturer and exit the machine using three-point contact. We have seen many injuries over the years, including broken bones, when workers have fallen off equipment.

Stay safe out there!