Know Your Way Around Construction Equipment

Important Safety Tips Every New Forklift Driver Should Know

A forklift can be a dangerous piece of equipment that can cause fatalities. In fact, OSHA suggests that forklift accidents cause about 85 fatalities every year. If you've recently been hired to drive a forklift, you probably don't want to be counted in that statistic. Therefore, it's important to make safety your number one priority.

Often, forklift operation safety courses are offered in the workplace, and some require certification which involves extensive practice and testing before being granted. These certification courses are typically thorough and sufficient; however, as with many things in life, experience can be your best instructor. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while you are gaining experience on the job.

Docks & chocks

If you are using a forklift to unload or load a semi trailer or flatbed and this requires you to drive the forklift into or onto the trailer from the dock, it is crucial to make sure the wheels of the trailer are chocked beforehand. Make sure the wheels are chocked properly, even if the trailer is still attached to the semi.

Due to the weight and momentum of the forklift, it is possible for the trailer to slide away from a loading dock when the forklift enters or exits the trailer. If this were to happen, it could cause the forklift to drop to the surface below the dock area, which could result in a devastating accident.

Loading dock supervisors should always make sure that approved safety chocks are available at each loading dock. If you cannot find any chocks at the loading docks, inform your supervisor.

Floors & spills 

It is important to regularly scan the floors where you operate your forklift to check for any type of fluid spills or leaks that may have occurred. The lifting mechanisms of forklifts are controlled by hydraulics and carry a surplus of hydraulic fluid, which is oil-based. Often, leaks occur which can leave behind puddles or sprays of hydraulic fluid on the floor where forklifts are used.

While the tires of a forklift are generally designed to handle water-based liquids an oil-based liquid can easily cause you to lose control of the forklift which could result in an accident, especially if the forklift is carrying a heavy load and traveling at maximum speed. If the forklift tires run through hydraulic fluid on the floor, you may not be able to turn the forklift or apply the brakes.

Avoid spills and leaks by regularly scanning and inspecting the flooring as you drive. If you notice spills or leaks on the floor, place warning signs in the area and alert your supervisor so the fluid can be cleaned. 

To prevent spills and leaks from the hydraulics of your forklift, it's important to inspect the forklift before and during your shift. Your supervisor will teach you how to perform these timely preventive maintenance tasks.

Loads & weights

It's important to understand the weight of your loads as well as the load capacity of your forklift when it is fully extended. Each forklift has a placard that states the loading capacities and center of gravity for the equipment.

Forklifts are designed to counterbalance heavy loads when the forks are in the topmost position. However, exceeding the load capacity can cause your forklift to tilt forward, which would result in you losing control of the forklift or the forklift tipping over completely.

However, even if you keep within the limitations of the load capacity of your forklift, it's still important to handle the forklift with extra care when transporting a full load. Sudden movements could cause the forklift to become imbalanced.

It's important to always keep safety in mind when operating a forklift. Not only will it assure your safety and the safety of others in the immediate vicinity, it can protect thematerials handling equipment as well as the products or materials you are handling with the forklift. Awareness, focus and keen operation are vitally important in forklift safety!