Fred Workley offers maintenance and operating tips for safe operation of forklifts.
Forklift accidents are among the leading cause of workplace deaths, killing more than 100 and injuring about 94,000 employees annually. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard 29 CFR 1910.178 addresses forklift operator training. Training includes formal instruction, practical training, and an evaluation of the operator's performance. The employer must certify that employees complete the required training and a performance evaluation should occur once every three years after the initial certification. Refresher training should occur if equipment changes, unsafe practices are observed, or if workplace conditions change.
Maintenance and Operation
Proper inspection of the forklift prevents most equipment problems. You need to use a printed safety checklist for a visual inspection at the start and end of your shift or before or after use of the forklift. Most checklists have you check the operation and availability of a seat belt, horn, backup alarm, warning light if installed, other driving lights if installed, backrest extensions, overhead guard, and the load-rating placard. The forklift must meet any local or company regulations.
Forklifts often have interlock devices. Interlocks can be checked in an area where there is no danger to personnel or property. Some forklifts will not start unless the controls are in neutral or the clutch is depressed. Some interlocks stop the forklift or apply the parking brake if no one is in the seat.
Special caution should be taken when charging the batteries or refueling. Battery cables and connector should not get hot. Look for leaked or spilled battery electrolyte. Always turn off the engine before fueling. Ground the spout and fill pipe by a bonding strap and ground wire. When filling LPG tanks, always relieve the pressure in the LPG lines before disconnecting. This is done by turning off the tank valve and running the engine until the lines are empty. Turn off the engine and make sure that the LPG tanks are secured to the forklift before turning on the valve on the replacement tank.
You need to be constantly vigilant to drive a forklift safely. Do not exceed the weight limits. Be aware of the height of the forklift mast and the top of the load so that it clears any obstacles. If you can't see in front of the load, back up instead. Make sure that bridge plates and dock boards are in place.
The following is a quick quiz to test your forklift operation knowledge. See how well you can do as well as where you can improve in operational safety.
Forklift Operator Written Test
- A forklift-training program will help:
A. Reduce accidents
B. Increase efficiency
C. Reduce maintenance
D. All of the above
- The rear-end steering of forklift trucks:
A. Is about the same as an auto
B. The rear end swings less than an auto
C. Causes the rear end to swing more than an auto
D. Allows the forklift to take sharp turns at high speeds
- When traveling on a level surface the fork should be raised:
A. No more than 6 inches
B. At least 12 inches
C. Between 12 to 18 inches
D. High enough so the operator can see under the load
- Lift trucks should be inspected:
C. At the start and end of the shift
D. When they start to develop malfunctions
- From a safety standpoint, one of the most serious truck defects is:
A. Worn tire
B. Low fuel or battery charge
C. Broken horn
D. Brake failure
- When following another forklift it is best to keep behind:
A. About one forklift length
B. About the length of three forklifts
C. About 10 to 12 feet
D. Close enough so the other operator can hear your horn
- The forklift horn should be used to:
A. Warn pedestrians and other traffic at intersections and blind corners
B. Make workers get out of your path when you get too close to them
C. Let your supervisor know that you're busy
D. Let everyone know you have the right of way
- If you have to leave a truck unattended, even with the power off, you should:
A. Ask someone to tell you if it starts to move
B. Be in clear view of it and no more than 25 feet away
C. Be no farther away than in the washroom if the forks are off the ground
D. Be no farther than 45 feet away if you're helping to load stock