When working in the construction trade, a forklift is an essential vehicle for transporting goods and pallets around your site or short distances. You may enter and exit a forklift so often it has become second nature to you, however, if not operated with precision and safety, forklifts can cause problems and injuries that are detrimental to your business.
With that in mind, we have taken in to consideration all of the problems that can arise with improper use of a forklift, and found ways to make your experience with one much safer and more productive.
After adopting standard site health and safety measures and putting on the appropriate PPE, but before operating any kind of forklift truck, it is important to follow the proper checks for all forklifts you plan to be in operation on any given day. These tests and checks should include:
- Testing brakes, lights, horn and steering wheel.
- Checking tires and oil levels.
- Check for any leakage coming from water, oil or the radiator.
- Making sure the forks are straight and not cracked.
- Check for obstructions, uneven surfaces and other possible hazards.
The most basic and important rule when it comes to forklift safety is the three points of contact rule. It is said that until you are in your seat upon entering, or standing firmly on the ground upon exiting, you should always have either two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet on the truck at all times.It is important that you do not use the steering wheel as your chosen point of contact, as the movement that can occur will cause loss of balance and therefore not a solid entry or exit.
The worst thing you can do is jump from the cab when exiting a forklift, this can cause multiple injuries, from falling from the jump itself, to accidentally putting yourself in the path of another vehicle. As well as the three points of contact, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and any possible obstructions, especially upon exit of the cab to avoid these kinds of incidents.
As well as these incidents, exiting a forklift incorrectly or on the wrong side could cause accidental activation of the controls of the truck, causing further issue. Unintended activation of these controls can also occur when parts of the controls are caught on loose items of clothing or leaning over when inside the cab, in this case care and caution should always be applied.
When using a loaded forklift, the first and vital step is to check that the load you are intending to transport is not heavier than the truck can handle. After this, it is important to make sure the load is balanced and fully secure to prevent the forklift from tipping over and causing severe damage to the forklift and yourself. As well as this, you should ensure that both forks are as far underneath the load as you can to prevent that load from falling off while in transit.
When you start moving your forklift, you should always look in the direction you are travelling, but in the case of your view being obstructed by the load, you should travel and look in reverse. To prevent your view from being obstructed, you should drive with the load as low as possible. It should also be noted that it is extremely dangerous for anyone to stand on the forks of the forklift, either in or out of transit.
It is said to be a common temptation for anyone operating a forklift to control the truck outside of the cab, but this process comes with too many risks and is not considered best practice. If you were to operate the forklift from outside of the truck, you could end up being hit by the load or drawn in to any machinery that operates the forklift, as well as the fact that your view won’t be as clear as it would be if you were sat inside the cab. Operating the forklift from inside the cab is and always will be the best and safest way to use it.
Just like you wouldn’t reach out or lean out of a moving car window, the same applies with a forklift. Reaching outside of the cab is a dangerous habit to have, as this puts you at risk of being injured by passing obstructions and vehicles, not to mention obstructing the view of said oncoming vehicle.
Instead, the best practice is to stop the forklift in a suitable area, dismount the vehicle correctly and safely then access the object on foot. This method will significantly reduce your chance of an accident.
When you are finished with the forklift, how you leave it is just as important as anything else. You should always park your forklift on level and unobstructed ground, and the area you park it in should not be an obstruction itself. The masts should be left tilted forwards and the forks fully lowered until the tips are on the floor.
Next, you should apply the parking brake, select neutral, switch off the engine then remove the key. Finally, return the keys to a place of safe-keeping until you need them again.
That is a step-by-step guide on how to operate a forklift safely, ensuring a safe and functional working environment for everyone on site.
Official regulations can be found on the HSE website.