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Raise Awareness of Forklift Safety

Don’t overlook these easy-to-implement forklift safety practices; review these tips with your crew.

By Jeremy Wishart, Contributor

Forklifts are one of the most commonly used pieces of material handling equipment in warehouses and facilities across the country, because they can do so much. They bring countless benefits to the modern workplace, efficiently lifting and transporting inventory—day-in and day-out.

But, due to the nature of the equipment, forklifts introduce numerous hazards to the workplace. For example, forklift operators and other employees are at risk of incidents such as collisions, struck-by conditions and tip-overs.

Fortunately, safety in warehouses is regulated by a series of standards from OSHA. To prevent work-related incidents, OSHA has several safety guidelines in place with regard to forklift operation, maintenance and required training.

Maintaining a safe workplace is crucial in fully optimizing operations and keeping employees safe and healthy. Employees can prevent incidents by taking the right precautions and regularly reviewing and practicing proper forklift safety procedures. No safety practice is too small. In fact, the small, simple procedures are those that are often easily overlooked. Here are some of the most essential tips for forklift safety:

  • Complete a routine check of equipment before operating and report any damages or problems to management. Do not operate the forklift if it needs to be repaired.
  • Always wear a seatbelt while operating a forklift. Overturned forklifts are the leading cause of forklift-related incidents. By buckling up while in a sit-down forklift, operators can save themselves from getting crushed by the machine’s overhead guard or roll cage, in the event of an accident.
  • Wear personal protective equipment. Protective gear, like hard hats, protective footwear and high-visibility clothing, are recommended when working around forklifts and other heavy machinery.
  • Keep loads within the forklift’s weight capacity to decrease the risk of tipping the machine.
  • Operate at a safe speed and sound the horn when visibility is blocked. Operators should sound their horn if vision is obstructed to alert pedestrians or other operators and avoid unnecessary collisions. Operators should also maintain slow, safe travel speeds and take corners and turns slowly to minimize the risk of tipping.
  • Maintain a safe distance from the edge of ramps to prevent tips-overs. When descending a ramp with a loaded forklift, always travel in reverse with the forklift and payload pointed up the grade. When traveling up a ramp with an unloaded forklift, always keep the forks pointed downgrade.
  • Follow proper safety procedures when finished with a job. Operators should set the parking brake; lower the forks; and set the controls to neutral when finished operating. Safely parked equipment reduces the risk of unintended movement. WMHS

Powered by Propane

Propane has been powering forklifts for decades and is a leader in the material handling market, because it offers a number of key advantages over other fuels.

According to data from the Propane Education & Research Council, propane currently holds about 90% market share for Class 4 and 5 forklifts. And, the majority of fleet managers—70% from the 5,000-10,000-lb capacity range and 51% from the 10,000-lb and heavier capacities—prefer propane to diesel or electric.

Because propane is a widely used forklift fuel, highlighting propane-specific safety tips is important for a variety of facilities across the U.S. Here are a few safety measures for employees to keep in mind every time propane forklifts are in operation:

  • Inspect cylinders prior to operation. Operators should check propane cylinders for rusting, dents, gouges and leaks. Cylinders that show signs of wear or leaks shouldn’t be used and might need to be replaced, even if within the cylinder’s requalification date.
  • Secure the pressure-relief valve on the cylinder. Operators should check that the pressure-relief valve fitting is roughly 180 degrees from the forklift’s locating pin.
  • Close the service valves on propane cylinders, when not in use, to prevent potential injury around internal combustion engines and unintended fuel loss.
  • Store cylinders in a secure rack or cage, which will ideally be located away from exits, stairways, entryways and high-traffic areas. A facility’s propane supplier can help identify the best location for cylinder cages. Cylinders can be stored horizontally, with the pressure-relief valves in the uppermost position, and operators should use proper lifting techniques whenever handling cylinders.
  • Develop a relationship with a local propane supplier. A propane supplier can serve as a great safety resource for businesses operating with propane, as their priority is to make sure customers and their crews understand how to properly and safely install cylinders on their forklifts. Some propane suppliers offer additional safety training opportunities for forklift customers, too. WMHS

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