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Safety Tips to Avoid Forklift Accidents

Abhijit Naik
A forklift is an extremely handy machine, but only when you use it properly, and when we say 'properly', we can't stop stressing on safety tips that you need to abide by.

Never leave the forklift unattended!

A forklift is considered 'unattended' when the operator is 25 ft away from it, even if it remains in his view.
Forklifts or powered industrial trucks are widely used in factories and warehouses to load and unload goods. If forklifts are common, so are forklift accidents.
According to the data compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift accidents claim 85 lives every year in the US alone. Also, hundreds of workers end up seriously injured and thousands with minor injuries. In most cases, forklift truck accidents are caused as a result the operator's inexperience in handling the machine.
A forklift overturning from an upright position is the most common accident. In this case, the operator usually ends up hurting himself. At times, a worker working in the vicinity gets injured by coming in between this machine and load, or the wall. Though rare, the chances of workers ending up being caught between two machines do exist.
Besides these, there are instances where workers get injured as a result of some heavy load falling on them, or themselves falling on the forks. And lastly, there are cases, where people get injured or even lose their lives after being run over by a forklift.

Forklift Safety Tips

Not just the people working in the vicinity, but even the forklift operator himself is vulnerable to mishaps, even resulting in death at times. Most accidents occur when forklift safety rules―the ones pertaining to lawful riding, speed limit, unauthorized operations, proper signals, and load carrying capacity―are not followed properly.
Only those individuals who have completed forklift operator's training should apply for this job. Driving a forklift is different from driving other industrial vehicles.

If you are an employer, ensure that the person you have hired is familiar with the machine and has the necessary documents to substantiate his claim.
Forklifts should be properly checked every day before starting the day's work. Problem, if any, should be promptly brought to the attention of the maintenance people.
You should never operate an unsafe machine, as the chances are that you will put your own life as well as that of other people in the surroundings at risk.
As a forklift operator, it's important that you are familiar with the area where you are working. If it's a new area, do go around and familiarize yourself with the surroundings.

You should wear proper gear, including a hard hat and protective footwear, while operating this machine. Also, check your footwear for grease before you step aboard the lift truck.
You need to make sure that you are seated comfortably within the operator's cabin. More importantly, you should wear the seat belt all the time.

You should continuously monitor the direction in which the machine is heading. While turning, you should stop and have a look, and move only when the course is clear.
You should watch out for uneven surfaces, slippery conditions, elevated platforms, as well as coworkers and other machines. Also, make it a point to keep an eye on overhead clearance.
If there are blind turns in the area where you working or if visibility is an issue, then you should either get someone to assist you or refrain from working.

You should sound the horn to alert people when approaching the entrance or for that matter, any area where people are working.
You should keep a check on the speed. Whether you are carrying load or not, you should never drive the forklift fast. It's also important to pay attention to other safety signs in the area.

You should drive at a restricted speed while the forks are loaded. You shouldn't attempt to raise or lower the load while the machine is on the move.
You should not carry riders unless the vehicle has a passenger seat. By allowing people to ride on the machine, especially on the forks, you are only inviting trouble.
As a rule of the thumb, the forks should always be lowered when the forklift is in on the move; even when you are not carrying any load.
You should never exceed the loading capacity of the machine. If necessary, you should use ropes or bindings to secure the load, and also make it a point to balance the load and counterweight.
Make sure that you are using the seat belt. In the event of a tip over, nothing else will come to your rescue. You shouldn't try to jump out of the forklift if you sense that it is tipping over.

When driving up the ramp with a load, you should move in the forward direction. In contrast, when you are coming down the ramp, you should come in reverse.
You should never try to turn the machine on a ramp; not even when you are not carrying load. Extra precautions should be taken when working on a ramp or in a congested area.
Lastly, you should never leave the forklift unattended with the engine on. When the machine is not in use, the engine should be properly switched off, brakes should be set, and the forks completely lowered.
Accidents are unfortunate mishaps which may take place anywhere; forklift accidents are no exception. It is possible to minimize such accidents by undergoing proper training, taking some safety measures, and resorting to the presence of mind.