Life’s Lessons of a Forklift Operator

Forklift accidents can be prevented by just watching where you're going and doing one thing -- drive the forklift.

Forklift accidents can be prevented by just watching where you’re going and doing one thing — drive the forklift.

A forklift operator can learn a lot from experience. While performing a job or impressing co-workers with their skills of operating a lift things happen that can embarrass at best or injure at worse a forklift driver or others. You can call these discoveries life’s lessons.

After driving a lift for several years one becomes aware of the powers of gravity, weight differential, paying attention, being too fearless or too courageous, and following rules.

And with the Internet and such websites as YouTube, a mistake on a forklift is just a few clicks from becoming viral.

The issues of gravity have been highlighted when things fall off shelves at warehouses and injure employees and even visitors or customers. Retail outlets like Home Depot or Lowe’s also serve as warehouses and offers dangers to customers and employees alike. For example, one accident in a Home Depot ended the career of NASA astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien. A 68-pound drill press slipped off a shelf, fell 10 feet and struck him. Examples of these types of accidents are all over YouTube. Between 1989 and 1994, incidences like this occurred 17,000 times at Wal-Mart resulting in injuries to customers. These events have occurred at Home Depot about 200 times a week, according to one law firm.

Accidents can be prevented by just watching where you’re going and doing one thing only -– drive the forklift. If there is something else you have to do like eat a snack, talk to a supervisor, write a note, etc., then simply stop and fully lower the lift. Once that is done, THEN talk, eat, write.

Knowing the capacity of your forklift is another way to prevent those accidents just waiting to happen. Keep in mind that for every weight there needs to be a counterweight. In other words, the weight put on the forklift needs to be balanced with an equal counterweight. For all of you math enthusiasts – the expected load X the distance that load will be spaced from the central support (tipping point) must be equal to the counterweight’s mass X its distance from the tipping point.

Moreover, the load must be squarely and centered on the fork and rest up against the backrest of the fork. The length of the fork must be two-thirds the load length or greater.

We’re human after all, so once we master a difficult task, we engage in stupid things to see just how good we are. That’s so with forklifts. YouTube is full of videos of forklift operators racing down warehouse aisles, performing tricks to impress co-workers only to be embarrassed with a fall, and more.

A funny stunt may get wows from your friends, but a messed up stunt can lead to a very serious injury. So operators are cautioned to resist the temptation to act like a kid.

Finally, forklift operators are responsible for co-employees who work in the same area of the warehouse they do. Just a second of being inattentive can cause the death of a friend, not just a serious injury.

Forklift trainers suggest:

· Look where you’re going.
· Stop and look in the new direction you intend to travel, and then go only when clear.
· Don’t just rely on the mirror. Look directly with your own eyes too.
· Take responsibility for pedestrian safety.

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