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Speed vs Safety: Guidelines for Forklift Operators

Courtesy: Ken Pretell at flickr.com

Most forklift operators have a lot of tasks to complete during their workday. So it's beneficial for them to get the job at hand done as quickly as possible.

The problem is that the faster forklift drivers go, the more danger it creates for them and for others in the work environment.

Going slow is safer, but it's also less productive. So how fast should forklift drivers go to ensure they are getting their tasks done both quickly and safely?

No Single Speed Limit

Unfortunately, there's no one answer to this question. How fast operators should go depends on the work environment.

Even within the same dock, warehouse, or manufacturing facility, the optimal speed is going to vary from location to location. While running with an empty forklift in straight aisles where there are no other vehicles or pedestrians, operators may be able to go quite fast. But while approaching blind intersections or while carrying big loads, they need to go relatively slow.

Zone Your Workplace

Even within your staff of forklift operators, you are going to find variations. Some drivers are going to go fast most of the time while others are going to proceed with caution.

Leaving it up to your drivers to determine how fast they should go isn't always the best idea. A better plan is to conduct a thorough safety and efficiency study of your workplace and then create optimal speed zones accordingly.

Speed limits offer drivers guidelines as to how fast they should be going to improve both safety and efficiency. They also give supervisors and managers the tools they need to control their drivers and protect their workers.

Avoiding Hazards

Of course, just because you set a speed limit in a certain area of your workplace doesn't mean that all drivers should go that speed all the time.

Conditions can change. For example, pooling rainwater or roads slick with spilled oil can be potentially life-threatening if drivers go the maximum speed limit.

Bumps, obstacles, and uneven ground can also put drivers and pedestrian in harm's way if drivers don't apply common sense to ever changing conditions. Operators also need to be aware of loose ground objects that can cause them to lose control of their vehicles.

Using the Horn

The horn on a forklift is there for a reason. Drivers should get into the habit of using their horn whenever they are approaching a corner, a doorway or entrance, or nearing pedestrians or other drivers.

Flashing lights also can help increase awareness of the forklift's presence to improve safety while maximizing productivity.