5 Forklift Safety Tips by Safety + Health Magazine

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According to OSHA, 11% of forklifts will be involved in an accident.  On average, 85 people die a year in a forklift accident.

1.  Train for Safety

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries states that "workers without proper training and knowledge of forklift operation, as well as operators who maneuver forklifts carelessly, have an increased risk of injury or death."  

Someone who is untrained driving a forklift is just as dangerous as someone who drives a vehicle without a license.  OSHA requires that forklift training programs combine formal instruction (lectures, tests, written instruction) with hands on training.

Forklift drivers can't just assume that because they have driven a forklift, they can drive any forklift.  Different models and sizes drive differently.

2.  Perform Checkups

Forklifts should be inspected before each job.  Forklift operators should check seat belts, tires, lights, horn, brakes, backup alarms, and fluid levels as well as the moving and load supporting parts of the forklift.

3.  Know the Machinery

The National Safety Council's training program for rough-terrain lift truck operators says, "Although lift trucks and personal vehicles share some similarities, they ultimately are quite different."

Drivers are not enclosed, the weight ranges from 9,000-30,000 pounds, they travel closer to a walking pace, the can tip easier than a vehicle, and they have a tighter turn radius - all making forklifts more difficult to drive than cars.

To drive forklifts safely, drivers should have a clear view, look in the direction of travel, use spotters or aides (rear view mirrors), and use headlights.

4.  Stability Triangle

A lift truck has a center of gravity that is higher than in a personal vehicle.  However, the load has its own center of gravity.  Once the load is picked up, there is a new center of gravity.

Lift trucks are built on a three-point suspension, which resembles a triangle.  The stability triangle is where the operators need to stay while the truck is in motion.

To avoid tipping, operators need to make sure the load is secure and stable, keep loads low to the ground during operation, keep loads uphill while climbing or descending, and drive slowly.

5.  Know the Load

OSHA advises that loads are checked before picking them up.  The load needs to be stable and the dimensions need to be safe for transport.

Read more about forklift safety at Safety + Health Magazine.

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