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Remember back when you were first learning to drive a car? One of the most interesting classes in high school driver’s ed was the day the instructor talked about defensive driving.
Defensive driving includes techniques designed to avoid collisions with other vehicles, objects, or people. But it also was about conflict avoidance. And with the rise in road rage incidents, these lessons apply to drivers more than ever.
But they also can be applied to driving a forklift.
The 8 Essential Elements of Defensive Driving
If it’s been a few years (or a few decades!) since you attended driver’s ed classes, here’s a review of the elements of defensive driving with a view toward how they can be applied to forklift operation.
- Think Safety First — While you can’t control the way other people drive, you can be responsible for your own actions. Follow basic safety rules like always wearing your seatbelt, leaving room between you and the vehicle in front of you, and wearing any required safety equipment such as vests or hard hats.
- Situational Awareness — Most crashes in cars and forklifts alike are caused by simple human error: People not paying attention to what they are doing. It’s critical for operators to always maintain 360-degree awareness of what’s around them and any potential dangers.
- Trust Yourself and Be Wary of Others — One of the wisest pieces of advice ever given was, “Always anticipate that the other guy is going to do the stupidest thing imaginable. That way, when he does, you aren’t surprised.”
- Leave Room — When moving forward, the greatest chance of collision is in front of you. So always leave at least three to four seconds of space to give you enough room to stop under any circumstances.
- Slow Down — While forklift operators are often under pressure to get the job done fast, safety is more important than speed. This is especially true when working in crowded conditions or where there is a high mix of pedestrians and vehicles.
- Give Yourself an Escape Route — The best way to avoid potential dangers is to always give yourself a way out. Don’t let your forklift get in a position where there’s noplace to go if you are suddenly blocked.
- Separate and Compromise — When confronting multiple risks, the best plan is to manage them one at a time.
- Avoid Distracted Driving — Anything that diverts your attention from the task of controlling your forklift is an imminent danger. Operating your vehicle safely requires your full attention.