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Operating a forklift is, by its very nature, a dangerous undertaking. After all, you are taking a machine made mostly of steel to lift thousands of pounds of materials overhead and transport them large distances, often across crowded docks and warehouse floors.
Most forklift drivers are familiar with the standard risks, including collisions with pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles; tip-over dangers; accidentally driving off drops and edges; and so on. But there are other, unexpected safety risks that many operators and forklift owners may not have considered.
Here are 6 forklift safety essentials that aren’t as immediately apparent:
Driving a forklift across a cement warehouse floor or a paved parking lot is relatively straightforward. But what about when that same vehicle is driven on grass, through mud, or along inclines.
Special types of forklifts are designed for off-road terrain. But when a standard forklift is taken beyond its environmental limits, it can add additional dangers.
Forklift tires are something many operators take for granted. But certain types of tires are designed for specific uses.
For example, durable pneumatic tires are ideal for heavy lifting because they are engineered to take the weight, while the rubber tires used on many indoor forklifts could burst or deflate if used to lift the same heavy weights.
And the polyurethane tires found on most electric forklift could cause problems if run on any surface other than cement or concrete.
How Wide Can You Turn?
The turning radius of a forklift is of particular concern to the operator. That’s because if you can’t easily turn or spin a forklift — especially in tight spaces such as a narrow aisle warehouse — the likelihood that you could get stuck is higher.
Age/History of the Vehicle
Given their choice, most operators probably would choose a brand-new forklift over a used vehicle, right? Not necessarily.
Some warehouse operators prefer vehicles that already have proven they are up to the task at hand. Plus, older forklifts have known performance parameters, maintenance history, and are already “broken in”, increasing the comfort level for many operators.
Too Much or Too Little Power
Fuel and diesel forklifts tend to have more power and lifting capacity than electric vehicles. But that can be both a blessing and a curse. Using an overly powerful gas-powered forklift to do lighter, more delicate indoor jobs can sometimes lead to more mistakes and limit operator precision.
Similarly, using an underpowered battery-powered forklift for a job that requires heavy lifting capabilities is just asking for trouble.
Unfamiliar Control Configurations
While some controls are common to all forklifts — the steering wheel and the brake, for example — others can be different or located in different places on the control panel. When an operator is used to reaching for the lift lever where he or she expects it but is on a strange forklift, it can lead to operator error.
Driving a forklift is always a potentially dangerous proposition. Watching out for these five unexpected dangers can increase both safety and productivity.