The End Is the Beginning for Forklift Safety

Photo by Lift Truck (via Wikimedia Commons)

In workplaces like warehouses, docks, rail yards, distribution centers, and ports, some forklifts are used around the clock. A single lift truck might run continually for 24 hours per day, several days in a row.

One forklift may have three or more operators during any single day, with each driver handing off the vehicle to the next person at the end of their shift.

While this is a good way to maximize the value of the business’s investment in the vehicle, steps need to be taken to minimize the risks by focusing on safety with every hand-off.

Following the Rules

The best way to ensure safety in the workplace is to have specific work rules that regulate how, where, and when forklifts should be used. Where are forklifts to be parked? Is there a checklist that explains specific tasks such as engaging the parking brake, turning the forklift off, removing the key, and so on?

Supervisors and managers need to not only educate drivers on these rules, but they also have to enforce them fairly across the board.

New employees should receive comprehensive training on management’s expectations. And don’t assume that experienced drivers won’t take shortcuts. Treating everybody equally and fairly will help avoid accusations of favoritism later.

Report any Problems or Issues

If the operator notices any performance issues or problems with the forklift during your shift, they shouldn’t leave it for somebody else to take care of. If it’s a serious issue such as a engine smoke or malfunctioning mast hydraulics, it should be reported immediately to the supervisor or fleet manager.

If it’s something that can wait such as noticing that routine maintenance is due or a low fuel gauge, report it at the end of the shift before turning your vehicle over to the next driver.

Be Considerate of Your Co-Workers

In every workplace, there are rules. But there also has to be common decency and consideration.

When operators end their shift, they should remove any trash or debris they have accumulated during the previous several hours. Wiping the steering wheel, seat, and windshield if there is one with anti-bacterial wipes or spraying the forklift’s cabin with Lysol is not only thoughtful but also sanitary.

When handing off a forklift to the next shift’s driver, the Golden Rule is still the best approach: Treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself. If you wouldn’t like it if the operator before you left you a dirty, smelly forklift, the driver after you probably won’t like it either.



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