Forklifts are powerful vehicles that are ideal for lifting and carrying heavy loads, but they have their own set of hazards to look out for in the workplace.
Some of the most common forklift accidents include
- falls from a forklift
- person being struck with a forklift
Below are a few hazards when operating forklifts which includes but are not limited to:
Attachments are a source of several forklift hazards since different attachments affect both the lift’s operating clearances and overall capacity. Attachments also add weight to a lift and reduce the capacity of the load. A forklift operator should acquaint themselves with each attachment used including the safety protocols and capacity limits to account for any potential operational changes.
Poor maintenance of the attachments and forklift itself can pose safety risks as well. Worn forks, stretched chains, and other run-down parts can put you at risk of an accident. Do a thorough check of the entire lift prior to starting the job. This ensures that everything is functioning and safe to use.
You should also make sure you’re choosing the right forklift and attachments for your specific job.
Refuelling and recharging poses potential safety hazards due to the fuel’s flammability risk. Diesel and propane are both flammable while battery recharging generates flammable gas. Due to this, you should never smoke near a refuelling or recharging area. Poor ventilation heightens the potential risk of fires and also encourages the build-up of toxic fumes like carbon monoxide.
Improperly driving a forklift presents its own set of dangers. Drivers can potentially collide with things like pedestrians and other tools if they’re not paying close attention to their surroundings.
Manoeuvring a forklift is difficult since you’ll mostly drive in reverse for most jobs due to an obstructed frontal view from the load. Rear-end steering makes the forklift take tight turns in the front but swings wide in the back. Drivers should take this into account when navigating a bustling work zone in a forklift. Narrow or cluttered aisles, high pedestrian traffic, and other outdoor and warehouse safety concerns also make manoeuvring tough.
Another forklift hazard to look out for is the lift’s speed. The weight combined with speed creates momentum that is hard to stop at high speeds. To avoid this, forklift operators should follow all posted speed limits and drive at a cautious speed.
- Blind spots
Blind spots are especially dangerous when operating a forklift since unexpected impact causes serious injuries. Full loads obstruct the operator’s view and force them to drive backward at times as mentioned above. Drivers should be comfortable driving a forklift and should also have a spotter when manoeuvring around blind spots.
Poor lighting and weather conditions can also decrease visibility and make it more difficult to navigate blind spots. It’s also essential to learn their route for the project to prepare for potential blind spots, obstacles and other forklift hazards. Employees should direct pedestrians away from any blind spots and block off the entire work area if possible.
- Floor conditions
The surrounding work area presents several potential forklift dangers. Debris, puddles, unstable ground and other floor obstructions can cause falls or overturns if not immediately taken into account. You should clear the ground of obstructions and hazards and plan to avoid any unfixable floor hurdles before beginning the job.
- Inclines and ramps
Operating on inclines and ramps pose a risk due to the forklift’s heavy weight. You should drive forward with the load in front when driving up an incline or ramp.
If you’re going down an incline or ramp with a load, you should drive in reverse. Parking brakes and chocks are a must if you need to park on an incline but should be avoided if at all possible. You should never turn on inclines or ramps.
Loads are another source of possible forklift hazards depending on what and how much you’re carrying. You should always secure your loads before moving the forklift and double-check that the load is both stable and not exceeding capacity.
Any of these things can result in overturns and other accidents. It’s also important to operate with extra caution when carrying hazardous materials since any spills or drops can endanger the entire work place.
- Travelling with elevated load
This happens much too frequently. This is a common mistake we often see committed by the operator. The forklift should not be driven or repositioned when its load is elevated.
When traveling, the forks should be just below the front axle height or at a minimum distance from the floor surface, the height of the forks should clear the ramp and bump of the operating surface even because even with a small bump on the floor can cause the load to fall off.
If the load is too bulky and is blocking the forward view, travel in reverse instead and make sure that the mast is tilted back against the backrest to make the load more stabilized to transport.
- Improperly balanced or unsecured load
This is another cause of forklift tip over. The heavy load being carried can make the forklift go sideways when the load is not properly balanced or unsecured.
Always make sure the load is properly placed on the pallet and that they’re evenly distributed, cross tied if possible, before transport so that it won’t rock or tilt.
If the load is heavy, see first the destination of travel it if is flat or rough so that you can know how the truck be driven on the surface.
- Leaving the forklift with engine running or forks raised!
Leaving a forklift while it is still running and/or with its forks raised should never be done.
A forklift is considered unattended when the operator leaves it, and it is not in his view. Even the operator is just a few meters away from the vehicle but when its view is obstructed, it is still considered unattended.
A forklift should be left or parked in the proper parking area. When parking, the forks should be lowered, the controls should be neutralized, its engine should be shut off and the brakes should be set. Never park the forklift and leave it with the keys still in the ignition.
We strongly recommend that ALL persons operating a forklift hold a current Forklift License. We also recommend that as an employer you ensure all forklift operators are trained in your workplace operations and evaluate their performance at least once every three (3) years.
Unlicensed operators put you and your organisation at risk in the event of an incident or upon a visit from WorkSafe.
A good tip is to ensure forklift operators are dressed in the appropriate safety equipment, including safety shoes, hard-hats, and a high-visibility jacket. Make sure to tuck away loose clothing to prevent it from getting caught on the forklift.