Forklifts are as much a part of lumber yards, distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers as trees are to forests. They cruise around the yard, retail or work site carrying loads of lumber, drywall, millwork and more, moving inventory from one location to another, gliding past fellow workers, customers or passersby.
Because the forklift is such a common part of a lumber dealer’s every day activity, it may be easy to overlook the risks associated with this necessary piece of mobile machinery. Unfortunately, accidents related to loading and unloading, poor visibility, and insufficient training continue to pose very real dangers to these facilities. These risks can be mitigated with proper precautions and training to create a safer facility for employees, vendors, delivery drivers and retail customers.
Below, we’ve outlined eight tips to keep in mind when managing forklifts on site.
Leave the driving to authorized drivers.
Drivers should be fully trained and certified on all operational and safety features of the specific forklift they are operating. Training should be regularly reinforced with safety reviews every three years or when equipment or hazards change. A manager should oversee all forklift operations. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) standard 19 CFR 1910.178 should be consulted.
Check that the load is secure.
Forklift operators should understand what they are carrying and regularly check the load. It should be secured against the back of the carriage and tilted backward, while the forks are low and widely spread for stability.
Ensure no other workers are around the forklift’s work area.
Check to see that no one is standing opposite of the truck while the forklift is in motion and instruct operators to stop the vehicle immediately if another person enters the loading zone. Trailer wheels should be chocked when loading and unloading. No persons should ever stand under or near the carriage load.
Drive with caution.
Forklift operators should drive at a speed of 10 miles per hour or less. Drivers should inspect dockboards and bridge plates and proceed slowly. The rear chocks should be in place on any truck or trailer being entered. When driving down an incline or when visibility is restricted, the vehicle should be operated in reverse. Operators should avoid sudden turns to avoid flipping the vehicle and be sure the forks are lowered and the brake is set when parking the vehicle. Dock plates should be inspected prior to use.
Forklift operators must be aware of their surroundings at all times. Aside from being aware of visible employees and customers, operators should also signal with the horn when entering doorways or a blind intersection. Operating lights, back-up alarms and warning lights help to make the forklift more visible to others.
Use the forklift as it was intended.
A forklift should not be used to lift people, unless using an approved safety platform. No forklift should be moved while a person is lifted on an elevated platform. Horseplay and stunt driving should be prohibited.
Complete a daily inspection.
Forklift operators should complete an inspection of the vehicle before operating that includes a review of the brakes, tires, steering, hydraulics, horn, warning lights and more. A record of these inspections should be kept on file.
Have safety equipment at the ready.
Safety equipment should be installed on all forklifts including: overhead guards, fire extinguishers, warning lights and back up alarms. When on a public street, a forklift should be equipped with a slow moving vehicle sign. Roadways and sidewalks should be marked to warn vehicles and pedestrians of forklift traffic. An additional employee should be utilized as a monitor for such crossings.