Lack of proper training leads to more than half of the forklift accidents in the world, which makes it imperative that the person undergoes forklift operator training to get well-versed with operating instructions before starting off as a full-fledged operator.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), standardized training and safety procedures could help avert 70 percent forklift accidents.
Though they are very useful, forklift trucks―simply referred to as forklifts at times―have of late earned some notoriety owing to the spade of accidents attributed to them. Around 85 people lose their lives and thousands of others get injured in forklift accidents every year. Forklift operators are not the only ones who are vulnerable to such accidents. In fact, 80 percent of accidents have workers working in the vicinity involved.
It’s worth noting that forklift accidents―most of them at least―occur due to negligence on the part of the operator, and thus, it is important to choose a person who has undergone proper forklift training to operate it. Having prior experience in driving such machines is always an advantage. Presence of mind, forklift training, and some safety measures can ensure that the environment wherein forklifts are used, is safe.
Operating a Forklift – Things to Know
As a forklift operator, the responsibility of the machine―and its handling―is entirely on you. You should carry out a routine check of the machine every day without fail. Malfunctioning, if any, should be promptly brought to the notice of the concerned person. A faulty forklift increases the chances of an accident, thus risking your life as well as that of the other people working in the vicinity. Hence, it is very important that you get familiarized with the machine and its controls.
A forklift is used to lift and transport heavy objects. It sports projected forks, which should be inserted beneath the object to lift it for transportation. Forklifts are mainly used in warehouses and construction sites, wherein large objects have to be moved from one place to another. Leafing through the operator’s manual will help you get well-versed with the nuances of operating a forklift truck.
► You should have a clear view of the direction in which the machine is heading. The forklift is driven in reverse gear at times, especially when the object that is being carried blocks the operator’s view. In order to facilitate this, its rear wheels are kept as its steering wheels. A person not used to such an arrangement may end up meeting with an accident―tipping off in most likelihood―while maneuvering the load in a relatively congested area. Therefore, it’s necessary that the operator gets used to the machine before working with a heavy load. You can practice operating the forklift in an open area, using bags of sand or empty boxes.
► Before you get going with the transportation part, you should also get well-versed with the area where you will be operating the machine. So going around the place before you begin, will be a good idea. You will have to make a mental map of signs you come across along the route and places where other people are working. The route on which the forklift will be driven should be clear of obstructions.
► If there are more forklifts operating around you, then you should to stay clear of them by maintaining required distance. There have been incidents of people getting crushed between two forklifts, or a forklift and some other surface. You shouldn’t operate it in an area which is slippery, crowded, or has a steep gradient. In fact, you should never try to speed or turn the machine on a slope; the chances of it tipping are maximum in this case. Similarly, you should never try to jump out of the forklift if you think it is tipping. You may end up getting crushed beneath it.
► You should check the load properly before you load it. Depending on the size and shape of the object, the forks should be adjusted to a proper width. You should never try to lift anything that is heavier than the capacity of the machine. The load should be properly balanced with the forks at the center. More importantly, you should never load material in a manner that it surpasses the height of the backrest. If not properly secured, it can fall on you, or on someone in the vicinity while the machine is in motion.
► When the machine is not carrying load, the forks should be completely lowered. You should not allow anyone to travel on the forks. About 4 percent of the fatal forklift accidents are caused as a result of people falling from them. If you don’t lower the forks, you are likely to end up hurting someone by piercing them. Yet another thing to refrain from, is speeding. Even slightest bump can send the load reeling either on you, or someone around you.
Being theoretically sound is one thing, actually operating a forklift is a different ball game altogether. Guides and manuals can only do as much. To excel, you will have to train under the watchful eyes of a professional. It is wise to become comfortable with the machine before you start to operate it on regular basis with heavy load.