How to operate Forklift Trucks in the workplace safely

Forklift trucks are used in warehouses, storerooms and factories to safely and easily transport loads. Although they cannot travel at high speeds, if they aren’t used correctly they can pose a health and safety risk to their operators and other workers. Forklift drivers must be fully trained and follow a set of regulations before they can operate these vehicles. Here are some safe forklift operation guidelines for managers, drivers and teams that work with forklift trucks in their workplace:

1. Qualified Operators Only

Forklift-trucks-operator Only fully qualified, trained and licensed operators are permitted to drive and operate a forklift in the workplace.

2. Appropriate Clothing

Forklift drivers must be suitably clothed in the correct safety gear when operating a forklift. This includes a hard hat, a high visibility jacket and shoes with a firm grip. Loose clothing must not be worn as this could become caught in the vehicle, causing a hazard. A forklift must not be operated with wet shoes or hands as this could cause accidental slipping.

3. Regular Inspections

Every forklift in the workplace must undergo regular inspections. Every forklift must undergo a comprehensive check every day before it used. If any problems are found with a forklift then these must be reported and the forklift kept out of use until it has been repaired. Faulty forklifts must only be fixed by qualified individuals.

4. Starting Off

The forklift driver must use the hand grabs and steps provided to enter the vehicle. This is especially important when a driver is operating a larger vehicle that is a fair height from the ground. The forklift driver must be seated in a comfortable position with all hands and feet within the vehicle and all controls within reach. Drivers must adjust their mirrors and check their mirror positions regularly to ensure they can see clearly behind. Drivers must wear a safety belt at all times when operating the forklift.

5. Know the Working Environment

The forklift driver must clearly understand and follow the site rules, regulations and restrictions. Forklifts must only be driven in designated lanes. Forklifts must only lift the required loads – lifting other materials could be dangerous. As the driver moves around the workplace, he/she must take note of directions and warning signs. The driver must maintain concentration to stay fully aware of the surroundings – in busy workplaces the environment could change at any time.

6. Manage Your Speed

Forklift drivers should always abide by the maximum speed limit. Drivers must decrease their speed when turning a corner or travelling on a decline as a lack of control could result in the truck tipping over. At all times, starting and stopping must be executed slowly.

7. Beware of Hazards

The operator must look out for any loose ground, approaching bumps, obstacles or wet floor when travelling around the workplace. Operators must not attempt to drive over any objects or surfaces that could cause the loss of grip and control. Operators must decrease their speed and take extra care when approaching entrances, exits, corners, walkways, doors and stairways or any other area with many pedestrians.

8. Keep a Safe Distance

A forklift truck should not be operated in close proximity to other forklift trucks or vehicles. Drivers must maintain a safe stopping distance from any surrounding vehicles or objects.

9. Ensure Load Stability

Operators must ensure that loads are in a safe position before they are moved. If an operator is unsure about the stability of a load then they must exit the truck to take a closer look and double-check. Loads should be carried in a tilted-back position with the forks in their lowest position to ensure the truck’s weight is balanced and stable. Drivers must not travel with the truck’s forks in a raised position. Special care must be taken to look out for any overhead obstructions when the forks are raised.

10. Maintain Clear Visibility

If a load blocks the visibility of the driver then it should not be transported with that particular forklift. Forklifts should always be driven in reverse to ensure maximum visibility. The forklift operator must have clear sight of any obstructions when stacking loads. If an operator cannot clearly see a load or an obstruction then a lookout should be called in for assistance.

11. Forklift Trucks Must Only Carry Loads

At no time are people allowed to ride on the forks of the vehicle. No more than one person is permitted to ride inside the truck. The appropriate platform and caging must be used if a forklift is required to lift a person.

12. Stay Clear of the Mast

When a forklift is in operation, people are not permitted to walk beneath the lifting mechanism. The hands, feet or any other part of the body must never be placed onto the mast as serious injury could occur.

13. Ramp Driving Safety

Drivers must approach ramps in a forward-facing direction. Drivers must drive down ramps in reverse. A forklift should only ever be loaded when it is positioned on an incline.

14. Secure Loads

Loads must not be lifted by a forklift if they are unstable. Loads must be securely positioned and their weight balanced across the two forks of the truck before they can be transported. Further security measures must be taken if the load is especially insecure. The operator must take special care if he/she is transporting a particularly high, wide or oddly shaped load.

15. Do Not Overload the Vehicle

A forklift truck should never be used to transport a load that exceeds its load weight limit as this could cause the truck to become imbalanced and susceptible to tipping. The tips of forks are not suitable for use as levers to lift heavy loads. The tips of forks are not suitable for pushing a heavy load.

16. Ensure Loads are Evenly Distributed

Both forks must be completely beneath a load before it is moved. Both forks should always be used to lift a load. If necessary, pallets and skids should be used to further secure the load’s weight. Forks, pallets or skids that are damaged should never be used.

17. Take Special Care with Abnormal Loads

Operators must take extra care when transporting a particularly tall or wide load to ensure that the load is well balanced and secured. In the case of an abnormal load, extra checks must be carried out before moving off and the forklift manoeuvred extra slowly. If securing the load is found particularly difficult then another person must be called in for assistance or a different forklift used.

18. Stay Aware of Changes in the Working Environment

As workplace environments can change without notice, operators must always observe their surroundings and any warning signs. Special care must be taken to make sure the forks are not in their raised position when driving the truck beneath archways. Extra care must be taken to keep a safe distance when driving a forklift close to a ramp or a loading dock. Forklifts should not be driven on bridge plates unless they have sufficient support for the weight.

19. Refuelling

Forklifts should not be refuelled anywhere else than a designated area. The designated refuelling area should be well-ventilated Open flames or sparks are not permitted at any time in the refuelling area The forklift’s engine must be switched off when it is being refuelled.

20. Safe Forklift Storage

Forklifts must be parked in an authorised safe area at the end of shifts. When parked, the forks must be positioned at their lowest point. When parked, the park brake must be activated. When parked, the engine must be switched off and the key removed.
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