When Forklifts Attack
Originally posted July 01, 2013 by Albert Polito on http://www.duralabel.com
10 Things You Need to Know About Your Forklift and Four Forklift Videos You’ll Never Forget
As with most technological wonders, the forklift is both a solution and a problem. Obviously the forklift (known in OSHA-speak as “powered industrial truck”) is a great way to move heavy loads and to place them high on storage racks, but in terms of safety, they can be a huge problem—in fact, problems with powered industrial trucks ranked seventh in OSHA’s top safety citations in both 2011 and 2012.
Forklifts fall over, they hit and crush people (including their drivers), they start up inadvertently, and people stand on the forks. All of these safety issues have resulted in numerous fatalities. Carelessly driven forklifts can also damage other equipment that can render it unsafe.
It’s really not the forklift’s fault when there’s an injury: all forklift injuries and fatalities are preventable. Following are 10 things every company with a forklift needs to know and put into practice.
1. It begins and ends with training.Most forklift fatalities and injuries could have been prevented if the forklift operator had been properly trained or had heeded the training received.OSHA’s standard on powered industrial trucks requires all operators to be thoroughly trained via a combination of formal instruction, practical training, and evaluation of the operator’s skill level using the forklift in the workplace. Every three years each operator must be evaluated and recertified. If there are any issues, including incidents or near misses, observation of unsafe operation, or changes to the work environment or model of forklift used, refresher training must be taken. According to OSHA, “All operator training and evaluation shall be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence.”
2. 18 or older: It’s the law.Federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from operating a forklift. Just because it’s not an automobile doesn’t mean federal law doesn’t apply.
3. Not all forklifts are created equal.Many forklift incidents could be avoided if the proper model had been purchased in the first place. If your operators consistently move identical loads—i.e. the same size pallet—that will dictate a specific lifting capacity for your forklift. But if your business demands that load sizes and shapes vary, than it will be safer for you to buy a forklift with more capacity than you currently need. That way you decrease the likelihood that your operators will lift loads beyond the forklift’s capacity.
4. Plugged or unplugged?Electric forklifts are ideal for indoor environments, because they create no emissions and are quieter than internal-combustion-powered models. They also tend to last longer and need fewer repairs. Gas- or diesel-powered models are for outdoor use and have more power for pushing and towing loads, as well as more rapid acceleration. If your workers use a propane- or compressed-natural-gas-powered model indoors, be sure that the vehicle never enters a work area that lacks ventilation, such as a cold-storage area or permit-required confined space. The exhaust can quickly overcome a worker. The last thing you want is for your forklift operator to pass out or die of asphyxia.
5. Choose the right tires.Not all forklift tires are created equal, either. If your work surface is primarily indoors, solid rubber cushion tires should work best. If your forklift works uneven or outdoor terrain, pneumatic tires are preferred. If your worksite has a high puncture hazard, such as a recycling center, construction site, or scrap metal yard, solid pneumatic tires are your best bet. If a tire is punctured while lifting or driving a load, a rollover or dropped load could result.
6. It’s all about the accessories.It’s tragically common for workers to stand on forklift forks or forked pallets and be elevated to pull inventory or do some other work. This cannot be tolerated in the workplace, as numerous deaths have occurred by well-meaning employees trying to save time.
If your workers need to be elevated from time to time, why not invest in a work platform that is designed to hold a worker or two and fit on standard forklift forks? Any model you acquire should have safety features to prevent falling, such as toe-boards, railing (including mid-rails), and non-slip surface. In addition, workers on such platforms should use fall protection equipment to ensure their safety.
Other accessories, such as hoppers and loaders, cranes, carpet poles, coil rams, canopies, etc., can turn your forklift into a very versatile tool, but always observe the manufacturers’ instructions regarding safe use of these products and never exceed the capacity of your forklift. Using non-fork attachments can influence the handling of the forklift and present new hazards.
7. Safety devices save the day.Many forklift deaths and injuries result when a worker can’t hear the forklift approaching. Backup alarms that emit an audible beep are a good first line of defense against pedestrians being caught unaware of a forklift in the area. Other great safety devices include overload warning devices, and of course, the seatbelt. Seatbelts save lives when forklifts get overturned.
8. Go with the flow.Imagine what chaos would ensue if none of our highways had lines or lane markers. Without proper floor marking, your facility can be almost as chaotic and just as lethal. Use bollards, floor marking tape, and other floor safety signs to direct forklift and pedestrian traffic lanes as part of a wider facility traffic and inventory plan.
9. Do not try this at work.Maintaining your forklifts is critical to the safety of not only your truck operators, but also their co-workers. At the same time, forklifts are heavy devices and there are several recorded instances of well-meaning workers attempting to repair them onsite and getting crushed by them. To make it worse, the batteries of electric forklifts not only include dangerous acid and gas, but are also capable of delivering a nasty shock and are immensely heavy. As with your car at home, it’s best to entrust your forklift to a professional equipment mechanic. If you choose to have your workers maintain the batteries, have them wear goggles resistant to acid as well as a face shield, rubber gloves, and a rubber apron. Do not modify your forklift (replace with a lighter battery, change ballast), as it will impact safe handling.
10. Know your forklift.If a forklift’s load is raised beyond the combined center of gravity of both forklift and load, the whole thing becomes unstable. Picking up the load with the tip of the forks, tilting the load forward, tilting a raised load too far back, carrying a wide load, and forklift movement can all cause the center of gravity to move outside of the “stability triangle” that ensures a stable lift. When in doubt, calculate using the forklift’s data plate, and never raise the load higher than you know is safe.
Four Forklift Videos You’ll Never Forget