Avoiding Muscle Strains While Operating a Forklift

forklift1Many people who don’t drive forklifts professionally don’t understand how vastly different they are from driving other types of vehicles, such as trucks or automobiles.

When an operator is in the forklift seat, he is very seldom sitting still. Because forklifts are so heavy and the operator’s forward visibility is frequently impaired due to the load that is being hauled, the driver is constantly moving, bending, twisting, partially standing and dancing about in his seat all the time.

This can easily lead to sprains, strains and other injuries to the soft tissues of the neck, back and arms. These, in turn, can lead to long-term health problems.

Looking Up and Backwards

Some of the most common dangers for forklift operators include continuously and/or repeatedly looking up while stacking pallets on shelves or high places, twisting around to look behind while reversing the vehicle, repeatedly hitting bumps or driving on uneven surfaces, and using poorly positioned or poorly maintained controls.

One way to prevent injuries to employees is for employers to consider buying forklifts that come equipped with swivel chairs and/or closed-circuit video systems that can help reduce neck craning and twisting. They also can make sure that floors and road services are well-maintained and that potholes and other damaged areas are quickly repaired.

A Pain in the Rear

A forklift seat that is not in optimal condition can make a few hours on the job seem like an eternity for a forklift operator. Make sure forklift seats are in good condition so that they have minimal vibration and jolting. A high-quality forklift seat will support the back and provide sufficient cushioning.

The cabin also should be kept in good condition. It needs to be clear of debris and regularly wiped down so that surfaces are free of oil or other slick substances that can impair optimal functionality.

If possible, forklift operators should be assigned a variety of tasks — not always the same repetitive motion — so that they can change their posture frequently. One of the fastest ways to injure your back is to hold it in the same position for an extended period of time, especially when operators are working under deadlines or under stressful conditions.

Check Position of Controls

Check to make sure that controls are comfortable to reach and operate. After multiple uses, sometimes their bearings can become loosened and shifty. Repairing controls that are mushy or out of position usually is a quick fix.

Slips and falls are another common forklift-related injury. Make sure forklifts have adequate access and egress to provide three points of contact (hands and feet) for operators as they get on and off the vehicle.

Check to make sure the steps have anti-slip surfaces and enough space to stand on firmly, and that the hand rails and grab bars allow for proper grip and are positioned in an accessible location.

Make sure the area where forklifts will be parked is well lit so drivers can clearly see the ground as they step off the vehicle.

Finally, make sure that the forklift is regularly serviced and that it is always maintained, including its seating and controls.


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