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Safe forklift operation: employers, drivers share the responsibility

Ensure drivers are properly trained and capable of operating forklift vehicles safely.


August 22, 2017
by CCOHS

What can happen when forks aren’t in the lowest possible position. PHOTO: FOTOLIA

Forklifts play an important role in the day-to-day operation of warehouses and plants, but lift trucks, reach trucks and tow motors have the potential to cause serious injury or even death to their operators, other workers and pedestrians. Every year there are reports of workers being crushed by tipping vehicles, hit or run over, struck by falling materials or falling from a platform on the forks.

There are many reasons forklift accidents occur, including: inadequate training of operators; driving at high speeds; lack of proper tools, attachments and accessories; poor maintenance; age of the forklift; and not using seatbelts.
Employers are responsible for providing training and ensuring drivers are fully aware of the operating procedures. Forklifts have a limited lifespan and they require regular servicing. It’s also important to keep the working environment clear.

Pass these tips on to operators:
  • Keep an itemized checklist on the safe operation of machines. Review it before each use or shift.
  • Check the fuel, water, oil, brakes, steering, hydraulics, warning devices and lifting components before a shift.
  • Before starting the forklift, carry out a visual circle check.
  • Follow safe operation procedures 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 belts or restraint devices.
  • 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 the forward view.
  • Operate at a speed that will permit a safe stop.
  • Obey posted traffic signs.
  • Decrease speed at all corners, sound the horn and watch the swing of both the forklift rear of 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 is on an incline.

Forklifts have the potential to cause serious injury. By sharing the responsibility employers and operators will ensure lift vehicles are used safely.

This article was contributed by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). The Hamilton-based organization provides information, training, education, management systems and solutions that support health and safety programs in the workplace.

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