Anyone who works with or around forklifts should be aware of the safety hazard posed by these machines. A properly operated forklift offers a safe and efficient tool for moving supplies, objects and materials in and around your facility. However, when used without the appropriate training and safety precautions, lift trucks pose a present and serious danger to everyone around them.
Many of these mistakes, known as human error, are the most common cause of accidents and injuries associated with forklifts. Developing a firm understanding of these mistakes, and how to avoid them, is an excellent way to increase the safety of your facility. Regardless of the cause of such mistakes, whether the result of simple miscalculations or done with an employee’s best intentions, learning how to avoid these safety errors is a critical step for any facility.
Improper forklift training – a poorly trained operator will make more mistakes and may not know how to respond to changes within the forklift such as new inventory, environmental obstacles or changes to the operating conditions. According to OHSA, only certified and competent operators may legally operate a forklift in Canada. To be a competent operator, one must undergo both theoretical and practical training. This includes passing a forklift safety awareness course (theoretical) and receiving practical on-site training on the forklifts an operator will use on a day-to-day basis (practical).
Note: On the theoretical side, we recommend using an in-person forklift operator training like our forklift operator training class at Lucas, where you’ll receive high quality training from an instructor with over 20 years of experience in the industry. This is especially important for the employer, as it is their responsibility to ensure all of their operators are up-to-date on their training and properly certified.
Improper rest – like many activities, whether it’s driving a car or doing your taxes, driving a forklift while tired is a risky proposition. Inadequate rest and fatigue dramatically increases the likelihood of unnecessary and dangerous mistakes while driving a forklift. If your operators are feeling tired, which can occur after a few hours of uninterrupted operation, you need to make sure they are permitted a break.
Lack of an enforced speed limit – it’s not uncommon for forklift drivers to try and get their loads where they’re needed as fast as possible. Yet, this tendency often means driving faster than what is reasonable or safe based on the operating environment and conditions. As management, it’s important to establish and enforce strict speed limits, as well as clearly display the posted limits, to improve safety within the facility.
Lacking a forklift maintenance program – making sure your machinery is well maintained and kept in excellent operating condition is one way to avoid accidents as a result of operational and/or mechanical failures. With regular inspections (done according to best practices and industry regulations) and preventative care, you're far less likely to experience the kind of mechanical issues that lead to accidents such as hydraulic failures.
Note: preventative maintenance programs, such as those offered at Lucas, not only help improve the safety of your facility but also help reduce and stabilize your operating costs. Contact us today to find out how our PM program could help!
Failing to adjust for floor conditions – as mentioned above, floor conditions have a substantial impact on how fast a forklift can safely travel. Conditions such as the floor surface (i.e., concrete vs. gravel) and moisture level should be noted and adjusted for to maintain control of the forklift at all times.
Failing to take note of your surroundings – forklifts are operated in a number of different areas in most facilities where they’re found, meaning that they’re often used in a variety of environments and locations throughout the day, each posing a unique set of risks and challenges that need to be taken into consideration. This is particularly true in more confined areas, where a small miscalculation on the angle of a turn can result in serious properly damage and bodily harm.
Failing to identify blind spots – similar to the previous point, forklift operators must be aware of where the blind spots are on their forklift as these are one of the most common causes of forklift accidents. Begin by identifying blind spots, eliminate them where possible with extra mirrors and backup cameras, then make sure you’re vigilant where blind spots remain.
Inadequate visual markings – since forklifts are often driven in and around other employees, it’s important to visual mark where they should and should not go. As such, it’s important to use visual markings to indicate pedestrian walkways, intersections, aisle markings, stop signs throughout your facility.
Incorrect load handling – if a forklift load is improperly balanced, it is liable to break lose and fall. This can result in a damaged load but also injure anyone within the immediate vicinity. It’s also important to remember that you should never operate a forklift with an elevated load as this decreases the stability of the forklift. You should always look to transport a load as low as possible to the ground at approximately 4 inches from the ground.
Dangerous operations – forklifts are designed to carry objects and should never be used to transport people or push loads with the forks. A forklift should never be used to transport people, whether on the forks or seated on the counterweight. Likewise, forklift forks should never be used to push a load as the tips can cause serious damage to the load, proper or personnel.
Forklift safety should always be a number one priority. To help keep your employees safe, we recommend implementing a safety program that takes the aforementioned safety mistakes into consideration and establishing a comprehensive forklift safety awareness and operator training program. For help with your operator training needs, contact Lucas Liftruck Services Ltd. today.