There has not been a time when there were no injuries and death associated with the use of forklifts. And most of the time, the workers are the ones that are at risk of getting hit. So how do we keep them safe around forklifts?
Installing safety barriers in the workplace eliminates the risk of collision between workers and forklifts. Safety barriers provide a much safer alternative to safety signs painted on warehouse walls and walkways.
This article will explain how the separation of workers and forklifts, using safety barriers, helps minimise the occurrence of accidents in the workplace. It will also discuss the proper ways of handling a forklift so that it will not cause harm to people and damage to property.
What is forklift safety for workers?
Forklift safety for workers is about implementing a traffic management plan to protect pedestrians and forklift operators within the workplace. Pedestrians in the workplace include workers, visitors, and drivers of external vehicles.
Traffic management is a combination of workplace safety regulations and the application of engineering controls. The goal here is to separate pedestrians from industrial lift trucks or forklifts. Pedestrians and forklift operators must follow standard operating procedures to minimise hazards inside the workplace.
Why is the awareness forklift safety important?
While forklifts are a practical solution for lifting, stacking, and transferring of loads in every workplace, they continue to cause injuries and fatalities among pedestrians and operators each year.
More often than not, it is the lack of traffic management in a workplace that results in forklift-related accidents. And this often leads to the loss of lives and employers or companies getting fined by government agencies.
How do you keep your workers safe around forklifts?
5 Factors of forklift safety for workers
This is one of the most effective control measures in workplaces where pedestrians interact with forklifts. Separation is an engineering control that protects pedestrians from forklifts moving around the premises.
The use of physical barriers or guard rails in a workplace is the best way to prevent collisions between forklifts and pedestrians. Safety barriers stop pedestrians before they proceed into an open area.
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Involvement of all workers regarding safety in the workplace is necessary. This allows workers to raise questions about the risks being introduced. Or inform others about the hazards that weren’t eliminated.
All workers should attend:
- group meetings
- toolbox talks and
- general learning incidences
The key benefits of safe zones are the separation of visitors, such as truck drivers, from forklifts. When a truck driver enters the site, he is treated like any other employee. He is escorted into the site, through marked walkways, and into the driver waiting zone.
In places where the use of safety barriers is not possible, the best solution to traffic management is having different work schedules for workers and forklifts. This is to prevent workers and forklifts from being in the same work area at the same time.
What Forklift Operators Need to Do Before and After Operation
Forklift Operator Guidelines
Before operators are allowed to work within the workplace, they must have the current LF class high-risk work license. Likewise, they should have undergone training on the exact type of forklift they are going to operate within that workplace.
Supervisors must inspect the operator’s license and should maintain a record of the expiration date of that license. He should also check if the operator is currently trained by an RTO or Registered Training Organisation. Forklift operators have to renew their licence every 5 years.
Supervisors will occasionally give instructions, supervise, and train the forklift operators. This is to ensure that operators understand and use their forklifts properly and that they follow the company’s safety procedures.
Forklift Sign-in Systems
Sign-in systems must be in place to prevent unauthorised operation of a forklift. If there is no electronic sign-in system installed, then at least only the authorised operator (of that forklift) has access to the key.
Before operating a forklift, operators and supervisors must perform a routine check to ensure that the forklift is safe to use. A paper-based logbook system, if no electronic system is available, should be used for the pre-operational check.
An excellent way to demonstrate proper risk to health and safety management is keeping records of pre-operational checks.
Forklift Overhead Protection
The overhead protection structure of the forklift must be in perfect condition and must not show any signs of modification or damage. Unnecessary items should not block the operators view through the top of the structure.
Forklifts must be equipped with reversing sensors or cameras, reversing alarm, and mirrors. If your forklifts don’t have any of the safety devices mentioned, consider renting forklifts that are fitted with all the warning devices.
Forklift Warning Lights
All the lights must be in good condition and are operated properly.
- brake lights
- driving and
- reversing lights
- flashing lights and
- blue lights
The mirrors should have their proper alignment; they should be clean and not damaged. Likewise, warning devices such as reversing beepers and horns must be working properly.
There should be compliance plates fitted on the vehicle. A compliance plate contains important details about the forklift. The information must be readable and is written in English.
The information should include the:
- model name or number
- serial number
- year of manufacture
- capacity at a maximum lift height
- load centres capacity at other lift heights and
- load centres capacity when mast tilted
Likewise, a compliance plate is fitted on forklifts powered by LP gas. When installing the LPG cylinder on the bracket, ensure that the pressure relief valve is positioned at the top and the locating pin slot at the bottom. And then, secure the cylinder using two clamping bands.
Check if the cylinder mounting bracket is in perfect working condition. Operators must turn off the cylinder valve when they’re not using the forklift.
Seats and Seat belts
Replace the operator’s seat if it looks worn or damaged. Also, check if seat belts are working properly. To ensure that operators wear seat belts, it is best to use forklifts that have seat belts equipped with an electronic interlock system.
All forklift control levers should have markings with its operational function. There should be rubber boots attached on the foot pedals. Control levers, foot pedals, and rubber boots must all be in perfect condition.
Always inspect the tyres for wear and tear. If there is noticeable wear on the tyre, check if it’s within the allowable limits. Use tyres with the same type, tread pattern, and diameter on the same axle. Inflate pneumatic tyres according to the manufacturer’s specified pressure. Ensure that all tyres are in excellent condition before using the forklift.
Mast and Load Guard
Inspect the mast for leaks on its cylinders or fittings and hydraulic hoses. Ensure that the mast is of adequate elevation to support two-thirds of the unwrapped, segmented load. Also, check if the load guard is properly mounted and secured; it should always be straight and is not touching the mast.
Inspect for damages on the fork arms. Similarly, never modify the arms by fitting tow balls or drilling holes. Next, check the fork arm heel for wear and tear using a ruler or a calliper. The fork arm heel should not be worn more than 10%.
Measure and compare the thickness between the fork arm’s vertical section and heel section. Replace the fork arms if the heel section is less than 90% compared to the vertical section’s thickness.
Forklift Dos and Don’ts
Operators should never use the forklift to drag loads. Forklifts are specifically designed to pick up and move loads — not to pull or push a load.
Never use the tip of the fork arms to carry loads. Likewise, using only a single fork arm to lift a load is not recommended. Furthermore, it is unsafe to suspend a load from a fork arm using slings or chains.
The proper way of using the fork arms is to fully insert them under the load. This way, the load weight is evenly distributed along the fork arms.
First, you need to find a level ground to park your forklift. Next, lower the fork arms to the ground. Finally, apply the handbrake and then remove the key.