Forklifts play an important role in the day-to-day operation of warehouses, construction sites, yard operations and manufacturing facilities. Also known as lift trucks, reach trucks, and tow motors, these useful vehicles have the potential to cause serious injury and even death to their operators, other workers, and pedestrians. Every year there are reports of serious injuries such as workers being crushed by a tipping vehicle or between the vehicle and a surface, workers being struck by falling materials, falling from a platform on the forks, or pedestrians being struck or run over.
There are many reasons people are injured by forklifts, including: inadequate training of workers who operate forklift trucks; driving at high speeds; lack of proper tools, attachments and accessories; poor maintenance; age of the forklift; and not using seatbelts.
Your employer is responsible for providing you with the training you need to operate the forklift and ensuring you are fully aware of the operating procedures. Forklifts require regular maintenance and have a limited lifespan. Employers must keep forklifts maintained, regularly serviced and their working environment clear for operating safely.
Tips for safely operating a fork lift
- Ensure you have been fully trained on how to operate your lift truck safely and that you are able to do so.
- Keep an itemized checklist on the safe operation of your machine. Review it before each use or shift.
- Inspect the forklift truck every day before using or before each shift. Check the fuel, water, oil, brakes, steering, hydraulics, warning devices, and lifting components.
- Before starting the forklift, carry out a visual “circle” check.
- Follow safe operation procedures for the forklift at all times, including speed, turning, braking, and accelerating.
- Know the forklift’s load limit and never exceed it.
- Always inspect and wear any seat belt or operator restraint device when these are available.
- Drive with the forks at the lowest possible position.
- Keep the load low at all times when not stacking pallets.
- Move only when you are sure the load is stable. Re-stack the load if necessary.
- Operate the forklift in reverse if the load blocks your forward view.
- Operate at a speed that will permit a safe stop.
- Obey posted traffic signs.
- Decrease speed at all corners, sound horn and watch the swing of both the rear of the forklift and the load.
- Watch for and yield to pedestrians.
- Avoid sudden stops.
- Check for adequate overhead clearance when entering an area or when raising the forks.
- Maintain a safe working limit from all overhead power lines.
- Do not turn on ramps.
- Do not elevate the load when the forklift truck is on an incline.
Forklifts have the potential to cause serious injury. Their safe operation is the shared responsibility of workers and employers.