Forklift Safety

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The OSHA law requires that all forklift operators be certified truck- and site-specific by their employers prior to operating on the premises. The certification process must be conducted by a competent person within the company and consist of the following: a combination of formal instruction (lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, videotape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator’s performance in the workplace. An employer must maintain documentation of the certification for each operator. For additional information on competent person training, see WCF Insurance's safety seminar schedule.

Review safety with employees who operate or work around forklifts often. The following are generally accepted practices that can be altered to meet your company’s needs.

Know the Rules
Most employers have rules governing operation and maintenance of equipment. Before you begin work at a new location, check with your supervisor or the safety coordinator and ask about the rules you are expected to follow.

Rules to always follow include:

  • Only certified operators are allowed to drive a forklift.
  • Know the capacity and operating characteristics of your forklift.
  • Never modify or remove any part of the equipment.
  • Conduct an inspection of the forklift at the beginning of each shift.
  • Buckle-up your seatbelt/restraint before you start up.
  • Keep others away from your operation.
  • Never use attachments unless specifically authorized by the manufacturer.
  • Carry the load low to the ground.
  • Always lower the forks to the ground and set parking brake before dismounting. If you must leave the forklift unattended, shut off engine, neutralize the controls, set the park brake (if on an incline, chock the wheels), and remove ignition key.
  • Understand the rules covering traffic at your jobsite.
  • Know what all signs, flags, and markings mean.
  • Understand hand, flag, whistle, and siren or bell signals.
  • Know when to use lights, turn signals, flashers and horn or siren.
  • Stack material so it is stable at all times.

Protect Yourself
Wear all required protective clothing and personal safety devices.

You may need:

  • Hard hat
  • Safety shoes
  • Safety glasses, goggles, or face shield
  • Heavy gloves
  • Hearing protection
  • Reflective clothing
  • Wet weather gear
  • Respirator or filter mask

Wear whatever is needed - don’t take chances.

Learn where fire extinguishers and first aid or emergency equipment are kept and where to get help in an emergency. Make sure you know how to use first aid and fire extinguishing equipment.

Check the Equipment
Before you begin your workday, take time to inspect your forklift to ensure that it is in good operational condition.

  • Check for broken, missing, or damaged parts. Make necessary repairs.
  • Check the tires for cuts, bulges and correct pressure. Replace badly worn or damaged tires.
  • Check service and parking brakes for proper operation.
  • Check the engine oil system. Add oil if required.
  • Perform all maintenance procedures outlined by the forklift manufacturer.
  • Check forks for welds, cracks, and misalignment. Repair or replace as necessary. Warning: Do not operate a machine with forks that have been repaired by welding, unless the manufacturer of the forklift specifically authorized the welding.
  • Check the hydraulic system. Have any leaks repaired and fill to required level. Warning: Diesel fuel or hydraulic fluid under pressure can penetrate the skin or damage eyes. Fluid leaks under pressure may not be visible. Use a piece of cardboard or wood to find leaks but do not use a bare hand. Wear safety goggles for eye protection. If fluid enters skin or eyes, get immediate medical attention.
  • Check engine cooling system and add coolant as required. Warning: If the radiator is hot, let it to cool before checking the level.
  • If the forklift is unsafe for any reason, do not operate it until deficiencies have been corrected.

Clean Up

  • Keep work surfaces and engine compartments clean.
  • Always lower forks to the ground, set the parking brake, and turn off the engine before cleaning the machine.
  • Clean any windows, windshields, and lights, and make sure windshield wipers operate properly. Check doors and curtains. Visibility in all directions is important.
  • Clean steps, pedals, and floor. Remove grease or oil and brush away dust or mud. In the winter, scrape away snow and ice.
  • Remove or put away tools, lunch buckets, chains, and hooks. Loose items on the floor could cause an accident.

Check the Work Area
Check at ground level:

  • Inspect the surface over which you will travel. Look for holes, drop-offs, obstacles, rough spots, oil spills, wet spots, slippery surfaces, soft soil, deep mud, and standing water. Look for weak spots on docks, ramps, or floors. Watch for anything that might cause you to lose control or cause the forklift to tip over.
  • Clear away trash and debris. Pick up anything that might puncture a tire. Make sure aisles, ramps, doorways, and passages are clear.
  • Plan your work. Make sure you know where you will make your pickups, lifts, and turns.
  • Before you raise a load, know where you will place it

Check overhead:

  • Check the clearances of doorways, canopies, and overheads. Know exactly how much clearance you have under power and telephone cables. Also, check clearances when transporting your forklift on a truck or trailer. Warning: Never approach power lines with any part of your machine unless all local-, state-, and federal-required safety precautions have been taken. Use extreme caution.

Use Caution When Fueling

  • Warning: Never fill the fuel tank with the engine running, while smoking, or when near an open flame.
  • Never overfill the tank or spill fuel. If fuel is spilled, clean it up immediately.
  • Be sure to use the correct type and grade of fuel.
  • Ground the fuel funnel or nozzle against the filler neck to prevent sparks and be sure to replace the fuel tank cap. Warning: When refueling LP gas-powered forklifts, always follow manufacturer’s specifications and/or applicable regulations.

Look Out for Others
Before starting, walk completely around the equipment.  Let other employees and bystanders know you are starting up and wait until everyone is clear of the forklift.

Mount Properly

  • Always use three point contact with the machine (three out of four limbs are in contact with the machine at all times during mount and dismount). Face the machine when you enter or leave it.
  • Clean your shoes and wipe your hands before climbing on. When mounting, use handrails, grab-irons, ladders, or steps as provided.
  • Never use control levers as hand-holds, or step on foot controls when climbing on or off.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
385.351.8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

https://www.osha.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.

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