4 Forklift Operator Safety Tips to Follow

Forklifts and other heavy equipment play an integral role in the construction and warehouse industries. However, forklift rentals and purchases must be handled with caution in order to be effective. Improper usage of this equipment can easily result in serious injury or even death, which is why OSHA and other government agencies regulate the operation of forklifts.

While forklift operators must be trained and authorized (which is a process that requires renewal every three years), it never hurts for heavy equipment specialists to obtain a refresher on safety procedures. If you are using or renting a forklift, you'll want to refamiliarize yourself with these safety tips.

Always Stay Sober

Although it might seem obvious, this safety tip needs to be recognized for its importance. No one should operate any kind of vehicle or heavy machinery under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Of course, this includes illicit substances, but it also applies to prescription medications. Even certain over-the-counter treatments that may cause drowsiness should also be avoided, as should anything that alters your state of mind and your ability to function. Muscle relaxants and beverages with too much caffeine can also be dangerous, in certain situations -- so it's not merely the legality of a drug that determines its safety rating. Make sure that all forklift operators know to stay sober on the job and to ensure their habits outside of work will not impede their ability to perform their duties.

Examine and Attend to Forklifts

Before you ever turn on a forklift, you'll need to conduct an assessment to ensure it's in good working order. Before every shift, this equipment should be examined to determine whether repairs or maintenance are needed. Operators should make it a point to inform their supervisors of any known issues with a given piece of machinery. Assuming a forklift has been analyzed and is good to go, operators should also know enough not to leave that piece of equipment unattended. Once the keys are in the ignition, the operator should remain within the unit; if the operator needs to leave, the forklift must be turned off and the keys must be taken out of the ignition to prevent safety concerns.

Know How to Carry Your Load

Every forklift operator needs to know how to correctly carry a load. Loads should be carried on a low level, as this provides more stability. Operators should refrain from lifting loads above their lines of sight; instead, forklifts should be operated backwards, if sight is disrupted. By traveling in reverse, you'll gain a better visual. The blade angles should be tilted higher in front to keep loads from slipping off. However, the blades themselves should be positioned lower on the forklift to minimize the risk of fatal injury, should a forklift come into contact with anyone. The lifting capacity of a given forklift should never be exceeded, as going above this limit can lead to accidents.

Wear Appropriate Gear

Certainly, operators need to receive proper training before they can be trusted to use a forklift. This training can help to protect them when this equipment is in use. But wearing the proper clothing can also provide vital protection. Forklift operators should wear mandated safety workwear, such as hi-visibility jackets, safety footwear, and hard hats. All clothing should be fitted to avoid the possibility of loose fabric becoming caught in the equipment. Although gloves may not be required, it's important for operators to avoid making contact with controls if their hands are greasy or oily; this can cause slippage and subsequent safety incidents. Operators should consult all materials published by their employers, as well as relevant agencies, for guidance on gear.

Much of this information should be familiar to seasoned forklift operators. However, it's better to be safe than sorry. By reviewing this information on a regular basis and ensuring that your forklift equipment is well-maintained, your business can potentially prevent major accidents at the worksite.

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