Even if a forklift is developed to be as safe and ergonomic as possible, it can still be a dangerous tool if not used correctly. Almost all businesses that deal with materials handling will have a safety policy, but a busy, fast-moving warehouse will always be an environment where safety is highly important.
Fortunately, warehouse work can be made much safer when some basic rules are followed closely, and potentially risky practices are completely avoided. This list is a long one, but here are a few basic rules which are important to remember in your daily work.
1. Don’t exceed the truck’s specified lift capacity
In order to save time and boost efficiency, it is tempting for some to attempt to use the forklift to carry more weight than it’s designed to carry. This is a bad idea. Overloading a forklift doesn’t just increase the risk of damage and breakdowns that will require downtime and service – it’s also very risky behaviour which can lead to serious accidents. Stick to the specified lift capacity, and you can be confident your forklift will safely be able to handle the load.
2. Don’t forget to remove the key from the ignition/log off before you leave the truck
It can be easy to forget, but it’s important for drivers to make sure that the truck can’t be started by someone else when they have got off it. On some forklifts, this may involve removing the key from the ignition, but on others the driver may need to log off via the truck’s computer. This ensures that no-one who is untrained or unauthorised to use the truck can climb on and start driving it, which could create safety issues.
3. Do not lift anyone with the truck’s forks – without a proper platform
Some order picking trucks are designed to lift people high up, so that they can reach high shelves in a warehouse. But other forklifts aren’t made for this, which means the forks should never be used to lift anything other than a proper unit load. Lifting a person with the truck’s forks can be deadly, not to mention against your country’s health and safety regulations. If you must use a standard forklift to lift a person, platform attachments (sometimes known as cages, lifting platforms or man baskets) which are fixed to the forks and can be used to safely lift people are widely available from attachment suppliers.
4. Don’t travel in the truck with the load above a safe transport height
Many modern forklifts are designed to offer the driver a good view at the way ahead through the mast. However, this goes to waste if the load is raised enough to block the view – and makes operation much more dangerous for the driver and others in the warehouse. Driving with the load too high can also affect the truck’s stability, potentially making it more vulnerable to tipping over when cornering.
5. If the load is tall enough to obstruct your view, drive in the opposite direction
Sometimes, your forklift’s load may be too tall to offer a clear view ahead, even if the forks are at the correct travel height. In these cases, it’s safest to travel in the opposite direction, allowing the driver to clearly see any obstacles.
6. Do not allow anyone to walk or stand under the elevated forks of a forklift
Unlike some of the other mistakes which require an operator making a deliberate decision to act unsafely, this situation could potentially arise by accident. However, being constantly vigilant around operating forklifts is important to stop this happening. A person who is standing below elevated forks could be seriously injured if the forks are lowered, or if any items fall from the load – therefore, keeping a distance is vital.