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Staying Ahead of Forklift Accidents

Taking time to review these safety essentials can prevent accidents.

By: Gavin Hale, Contributor

It’s important for personnel to wear personal protective equipment while operating propane forklifts. Image courtesy of Propane Education & Research Council.

It’s important to stay vigilant about safety on and off the warehouse floor. It can be easy for material handling equipment operators to let safety precautions fall by the wayside when workload demand picks up, but even the simplest precautions can be the difference between a smooth-running day and a catastrophic accident. By taking time to review safety essentials with the team, owners and managers can prevent forklift accidents.

CHECK EQUIPMENT BEFORE EACH USE

Routine and detailed equipment checks can prevent many forklift issues by identifying and resolving issues before they escalate. If an operation is using propane-powered forklifts, inspections should include checking for fuel line leaks, removing excess oil and grease, and scanning propane cylinders for rusting or dents. Cylinders that show signs of wear or leaks shouldn’t be used and may need to be replaced, even if it is within the cylinder’s requalification date. Confirm the cylinder valve is closed before connecting.

ENFORCE SAFE OPERATION GUIDELINES

Use the horn when approaching corners to alert pedestrians and other operators. Image courtesy of Propane Education & Research Council.

Regularly reviewing and enforcing safety procedures with employees can help operations avoid accidents and other problems.

Facility Markings: Warehouses and distribution centers have many moving parts as well as people coming and going. Managers can enhance the safety of their operation with bright floor markings, mirrors around corners, and ample signage throughout the property that identifies refueling stations.

PPE: Forklift safety precautions apply not only to operators, but to those on the warehouse floor, in the loading dock and throughout a terminal. It’s important for employers to evaluate hazards and ensure that everyone who is exposed to them wear proper personal protection equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, protective footwear, eye protection and high-visibility clothing.

Buckle Up & Know Your Weight Capacity: Wearing a seatbelt, on forklifts equipped with them, is very important. Equally important is knowing what to do on stand-up counterbalance and reach trucks when they tip over, as its very different from sit down units. Enforce the importance of buckling up every time an operator is on a forklift. Overturned forklifts, one of the leading causes of forklift-related accidents, are easy to prevent by staying within the designated weight capacity. Weight capacity markings are there for a reason — to keep operators safe.

Use the Horn & Mind Ramps: After completing a pre-use inspection and buckling up, operators are advised to move slowly and use the horn. When vision is obstructed, it’s easy to have a collision but using a spotter and the horn in appropriate areas, like intersections, will keep pedestrians and other operators safe. Drivers should always carry a load pointing up an incline with their head pointed in the direction they are going. If unloaded, keep the forks pointed downgrade.

Brakes: When finished operating a forklift, always lower the forks, use the parking brake and set the controls to neutral. Safely parking the machine reduces the risk of unintended movement and injury. If parking on an incline, be sure to use wheel blocks to secure the machine further.

KNOW YOUR ENERGY SOURCE SPECIFICATIONS

Propane is a clean, safe and reliable energy source to power forklifts. While each energy source has a different set of safety specifications, it’s important to ensure your employees are following the below guidelines when using propane equipment.

  • Use proper lift techniques to place a propane cylinder onto a forklift. The cylinder should be carefully placed into the cradle so the cylinder pin enters the locating hole in the cylinder collar. Once properly situated, secure the cylinder by tightening the brackets and check for leaks using a leak detection solution.
  • Secure the pressure relief valve on the cylinder. Operators should check that the pressure relieve valve fitting is roughly 180 degrees from the forklift’s locating pin.
  • Firmly tighten the gas line to the service connection.
  • Close the service valves on cylinders when not in use. This helps prevent potential injury around internal combustion engines and unintended fuel loss.
  • Store propane cylinders in a secure rack or cage. The cylinders should be stored horizontally with the pressure relief valves in the uppermost position, and operators should use proper lifting techniques when removing cylinders from storage and placing onto a forklift.

A propane cylinder storage rack should be located a safe distance from heat or ignition sources, away from stairwells and high traffic areas, and protected from exposure to the elements.

Fortunately for crews operating propane-powered forklifts, they can rely on their local propane supplier for support. Local suppliers offer safety training opportunities, inspect cylinders each time they’re exchanged, remove and recycle damaged cylinders from service, and repair or replace leaky valves and O-rings on cylinders as needed.

With proper signage, training and storage, propane is a safe energy source to power forklifts; and with regular safety reminders, forklift operators and workers can stay safe. WMHS

Gavin Hale is vice president of business development at Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), a nonprofit that provides leading propane safety and training programs and invests in research and development of new propane-powered technologies. PERC is operated and funded by the propane industry. For more information, visit www.Propane.com. To learn more about propane forklift safety, visit www.Propane.com/forklifts.

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