Safe Forklift Operations (Continued)
Check out this great video on basic forklift operations.
Loading and Unloading the Forklift
Because of the wide variety of equipment used and the different kinds of stock and materials handled, each company must form additional rules for loading and unloading to fit the needs of its facilities. Know the maximum load that each truck can carry safely; do not overload it. An overloaded truck will not operate in a safe manner.
Answer the following questions and check the load before you pick it up.
- Is it stable or will parts slide or fall during transit? Secure it as necessary. The illustrations to the right show some common pallet stacking patterns.
- Do the dimensions and weight of the load fall within the capacity rating of the forklift at the highest elevation and maximum extension you will handle the load? If not, can you break the load into smaller parts?
Common pallet stacking patterns
When you pick up the load:
- Move squarely into position in front of the load.
- Make sure your view is not obstructed.
- Do not permit anyone to stand under or too close to a load that is being hoisted or lowered.
- Position the forks wide apart to keep the load balanced.
- Drive the forks fully under the load.
- Tilt the mast backward slightly to stabilize the load and lift. Check the destination before you place the load.
Watch this short video demonstrating what can happen with a high-center unstable load.
Loading and Unloading the Forklift (Continued)
Check out the destination:
- Is the destination flat and stable—or, will the load rock, tilt or lean?
- Never place heavy loads on top of light loads.
- Observe maximum stacking quantities and orientation if printed on cartons.
- Do you know the load bearing capacity of your rack or storage loft destination?
- Are rack legs or support members bent or disconnected? The load bearing capacity of a damaged rack is unknown. Wait until the damaged component has been replaced before loading.
- Are racks arranged back to back with a stock behind where you will place the load? Someone may need to be in the next aisle to control access while you place the load.
- Are wooden stringers or decking laid between front and rear rack beams in good condition? They may support the load if the pallet is not properly placed on both front and rear rails.
- If you are stacking, are other pallets in the stack in good condition and capable of supporting the load in addition to what they are already supporting?
When you place the load at its destination:
- Move squarely into position in front of the rack or stack where the load will be placed.
- When ready to place the load, tilt the mast to level. Only tilt forward when the load is over the spot where it will be placed.
- Lower the forks and back away.
- Visually verify that the load is stable.
Leaving a Forklift Unattended
Do not leave the forklift unattended.
Click to Enlarge
A forklift is considered to be unattended when it is not in view of the operator or if it is in view, the operator is 25 feet or more away.
If you leave a forklift unattended:
- Select a secure location on level ground.
- Set the brakes.
- Set the controls to neutral.
- Tilt the forks forward and lower them to the ground.
- Turn off the power and remove the key.
- If the forklift is parked on an incline, block the wheels.
- If you dismount a forklift and stay within 25 feet, you must at least lower the forks to the ground, set the controls to neutral, and set the brakes.
Lifting and Lowering People
Lifting or lowering a person on forks or a pallet can result in a fall injury or fingers caught in moving parts of the mast.
No worker should be allowed to be lifted while standing on the forks or on a pallet lifted by the forks. The image to the right is a good example of what should never be done. These workers in the
photo are lucky they did not get hurt or killed.
If you want to use a forklift to raise an employee to an elevated position, use a platform or structure specifically built for this purpose that meets the conditions described below.
Order picker forklifts are designed to allow the operator to be lifted along with the controls to an elevated location. However, if the operator station does not have standard guardrails
on all open sides, then the operator must wear a full body harness with lanyard attached to a manufacturer approved anchor.
The first step to prevent powered industrial truck accidents in a facility is to establish a traffic pattern. This is management’s responsibility.
Management must ensure:
- Aisles are well-lighted and free from obstructions.
- Floors are sound and in good shape. Wet, oily or icy surfaces should be avoided. Clean them up as soon as possible.
- Aisles are marked clearly. When they are wide enough for two trucks to pass each other, the center of the aisle and the two extreme edges should be marked with painted lines. In some plants,
the aisles are wide enough for two truck lanes and a pedestrian lane.
- Do not allow for two trucks to run side by side in the same direction.
- A truck must never pass another truck at an intersection, blind spot or other dangerous location. In areas where there is high concentration of truck traffic, it may be best to have one-way aisles.
- Speed limits are set and strictly enforced. A few speed limit signs at strategic points serve as constant reminders to truck operations.
- Prominently display stop signs at all crossings. These may be regular stop signs or signs painted or set into the floor. You can also use stripes and discs as indicators.
- Each plant must set up its own rules regarding traffic control, but a required four-way stop at every intersection is a wise way to avoid collisions. Plants that have adopted the four-way stop
requirements have found that no significant time is lost by this extra precautionary measure.
Workplace surface and overhead conditions are an important part of safe lift truck operation. Operating surfaces must be strong enough to support the forklift, its load and its operator. They
must also be free of holes, grease, oil or obstructions that could cause the lift truck to skid, bounce, and/or possibly tip over.
Workplace surface and overhead conditions and factors to consider when traveling include:
- Slippery Conditions: There is a danger of skidding when traveling on oil, grease, water or other spills. A forklift could tip over when traveling on ice, snow, mud, gravel and uneven areas.
- Obstructions and Uneven Surfaces: There is a danger of tip over when traveling over obstructions, holes and bumps.
- Floor Loading Limits: There is a danger of the floor collapsing if it’s unable to support the weight of the forklift, load, and operator.
- Overhead Clearance: There is a chance of damage to lights, stacks, doors, sprinklers and pipes. Damage to the load may also occur, and the forklift may tip over when traveling and hitting an
Develop a model for good housekeeping. Develop specific procedures for storing tools and material in the proper location. Items to consider for proper housekeeping include the following:
- uncluttered and well-marked aisles
- a corner mirror for traffic safety at the intersection
- adequate lighting
Other standard precautions, which management should consider, include guardrails or flashing lights in front of doors that open into aisles; curbs around docks, pits or drop areas;
and mirrors at intersections.
Internal combustion engines produce carbon monoxide. This gas can rapidly build up in any indoor area. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide decreases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen
to the brain and other vital organs. Even low levels of carbon monoxide can set off chest pains and heart attacks in people with coronary artery disease.
Workers can be overcome without even realizing they are being exposed. Confusion, headache, dizziness, fatigue, and weakness may set in too quickly for victims to save themselves.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause permanent brain damage, including changes in personality and memory.
OSHA standards set the maximum allowable exposure to carbon monoxide. Gasoline powered forklifts should not be used indoors. Propane forklifts also produce carbon monoxide and must be
regularly inspected and maintained. If you are concerned about the exposure level in an enclosed area where a forklift operates, contact a qualified industrial hygienist to make measurements
and recommendations to improve ventilation.
What can happen when forklift safety rules are not followed.
It is very important to maintain accurate records of all corrective and preventative maintenance for a substantial period of time. Doing so will help in conducting accident investigations
by providing a maintenance history for analysis. It will also make it easier to establish trends in maintenance needs.
If an OSHA compliance officer investigates an accident involving a forklift, he or she will ask to see maintenance and repair records. If you do not have records, it will be impossible
for you to prove any maintenance was done and may result in a citation.