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The technology of forklifts and other material handling equipment may be rapidly developing, but forklift safety remains as relevant as ever.
The same rules that have always governed the use of forklifts in the workplace are just as important today as they were two or three decades ago, when lift trucks were far less sophisticated than they are today.
Safety Basics Still Low-Tech
Backup alarms, warning lights, and even sophisticated onboard devices that can detect nearby objects and pedestrians has increased workplace safety, but there still are an estimated 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries involving forklifts each year in the US, according to the Washington State Department of Labor.
While high-tech devices and technological advancements can help improve forklift safety, it’s essential that operators and pedestrians alike be aware of basic, low-tech safety standards, such as:
- Responsible Driving — Operators need to be thoroughly trained on every aspect of sensible forklift safety, including driving at lower speeds to prevent tip-overs, keeping loads load and stable to ensure vehicles remain upright , and never loading above a vehicle’s rated height.
- Beware of Odd-Shaped Loads — Pallets and other loads that are stacked improperly or are unstable should never be moved.
- Act Mature — Supervisors should monitor employee behavior and discourage horseplay whenever it occurs. The use of headphones, smartphones, and other electronic distractions should be discouraged among operators and pedestrians alike.
- Pedestrian Safety — Drivers need to operate with extra caution whenever they are near pedestrians. Collisions can avoided by minimizing pedestrian/forklift interactions. To increase visibility, vehicles should be outfitted with backup cameras.
- Work Smart, Be Safe — Pedestrians should never walk beneath raised forks, even if there is nothing on them. Workers also should never be in contact with a load while the forklift is moving, as this is very risky.
- Room to Work — Workspaces should be organized so that there are different paths for forklifts and pedestrians. Forklifts typically require wide aisles that are free of clutter and other workers. Pathways and doors also need to be free of obstacles and traffic volume and vehicle speeds should be limited. Other factors to be controlled include noise, hazardous matreials, dust and lighting.
- Vehicle Maintenence — Routine safety checks should be conducted by operators and maintenance supervisors on forklfit brakes, steering, clutch, shift linkage, transmissions,and mast assembly operations. Forklift emissions also need tobe kept at safe, non-toxi levels and worker areas where gas-powered forklifts operate need to be properly ventilated. Operators should be aware of blind spots and use mirrors, backup cameras and other devices to improve visibility.
- Continuous Training — Forklift safety training isn’t a one-time thing. It should be continuous, with operators and pedestrians alike being given refreshers on workplace safety rules according to a regular schedule — at least twice pwer year. That way safey rules are always fresh in the minds of workers so they are more aware and can avoid accidents.
Although theses safety rules are nothing new, they are critically important for maintaining the safety and security of your workplace, your workers, and your business’s safe and productive operations.