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Forklift operators come in all shapes and sizes. There are big ones and little ones. Male ones and female ones. Effective ones and not so effective ones. But what makes an outstanding forklift operator? And how can those who aspire to excellence improve?
It all comes down to developing effective habits and sticking with them each and every shift.
Highly Effective Habit No. 1 — Safety First
The first and most important habit a successful forklift driver follows every day is putting safety first. Lifting and carrying payloads weighing hundreds or even thousands of points is potentially dangerous. And if the forklift is working in less than ideal conditions — such as outdoors during heavy weather, into and out of sub-zero cold storage freezers, and other places — it only adds to the risk.
Highly effective forklift operators always put safety first. Period. They don’t take chances. They don’t look for shortcuts. And they are always aware of their surroundings and look for ways to minimize risk.
Highly Effective Habit No. 2 — Situational Awareness
Some people think driving a forklift is an easy job. But it actually takes a lot of intelligence and creativity.
Whenever you are in the saddle, you need to be aware of everything in your immediate area. This includes other people, other vehicles, and potential obstacles like low-hanging door frames, shelving, lighting fixtures, changing road surfaces, and more. All of which can make driving a forklift actually quite stressful.
Even the slightest mistake can cost thousands of dollars in lost property or product. Or worse yet, it could cause injury to a co-worker or to the driver. So paying attention every minute of every shift is critical to the successful operation of your vehicle.
Highly Effective Habit No. 3 — Overemphasizing Safety
Finally, the highly successful forklift operator develops the habit of being overly safe. What does this mean?
It means honking the horn frequently, even when you already know people see you coming. It means performing safety inspections of the vehicle before and after every shift, even if the driver before you just completed one. It means slowing down at every corner or turn, even when your forks are empty.
When it comes to driving a forklift, there’s no such thing as too much safety. Efficiency and productivity are important, sure. But more important is completing every shift safely without any accidents or incidents.
To be a highly successful forklift operator is simple: Just focus on safety, situational awareness, and safety again.