Manufacture a Safe Environment: Forklift Safety

Overturns are the leading causes of workplace fatalities involving forklifts.

Overturns are the leading causes of workplace fatalities involving forklifts.

Many industries use powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, to lift and transport materials. This equipment is crucial to accomplishing labor-intensive tasks. Forklifts help workers move materials with ease and reduce the need to manhandle materials, particularly in the construction and manufacturing industries. Even though they help ease the workload and can reduce strain injuries, forklifts present some other safety hazards for employees.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift overturns are the leading causes of fatalities involving forklifts, representing about 25 percent of all forklift-related deaths. Forklifts move quickly and can pose a hazard to those operating or working around them. It’s important to remain vigilant of your surroundings and to adhere to proper safety protocols, no matter if you are directly involved in the operation or not.

When working around a forklift:
• Pay attention, and stay clear when a forklift is in motion.
• Work in designated pedestrian areas only.
• Avoid taking shortcuts through traffic areas.
• Let the forklift operator know when you are working in the area.
• Never engage in horseplay around a forklift.
• Do not help move unstable loads; if the load falls, you could be seriously injured.
• Do not get too close to an operating forklift; you could get caught between it or under it.

When operating a forklift:
• You and your employer are responsible for the safe and proper use of the equipment.
• Read the manufacturer’s instructions before operating or performing maintenance on the equipment.
• Ensure the audio and visual backup signals are working properly.
• Wear a seat belt.
• Inspect the tires and brakes before each use.
• Always be aware of the forklift’s capacity, and never exceed the limit.
• Always set the parking brake and place the fork tips on the ground when not in use.
• When the forklift is in motion, the forks should be in the lowest possible position.
• Forklifts should not be used to lift people or as elevated work platforms.

Employers should be keenly aware of safety and legal guidelines for the use of forklifts and be able to effectively communicate them to employees. It is illegal for people under the age of 18 or anyone over 18 who is not properly trained and certified to operate a forklift. Safety guidelines should be posted at the worksite, and safety training should be mandatory for all employees if a forklift is used onsite.

Additional safety guidelines for the use of forklifts include:
• The operator should be the only person on the forklift.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Listen for horns, and look for flashing lights.
• Never walk or stand under an elevated load.
• Be careful even when the forklift is not in motion. Do not trip over the forks when a forklift is lowered.
• Use the forklift to lift material, not people.
• Do not walk too close to an operating forklift; you could get caught between it or under it.

As always, communication is imperative to any company’s safety program. Employees should be encouraged to report safety hazards, whether they are equipment or personnel related. New employees should be trained, and current employees should receive continuous training to ensure everyone knows that safety is a priority.

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