If you work in an environment where heavy or large loads need to be moved regularly, chances are there will be a need for the use of a forklift. A forklift is a vehicle used for hauling or lifting heavy items over a short distance, such as in the vicinity of a warehouse. In order to safely operate a forklift, the driver needs to be fully trained and licensed. Before operating this type of equipment, there are several things to keep in mind to ensure the safety of the driver and those nearby. Here are 5 "Dos and Don'ts" one should keep in mind before getting behind the wheel:
1. DO Make Sure You Qualify for Operation of a Forklift
In order to be in compliance with the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you need to have special training and a license to operate any type of forklift. One should never attempt to operate a forklift before having done so. Training courses may be completed online or in person (in a classroom setting) given by an instructor. Be sure the courses you take are 100 percent OSHA compliant.
The courses or training you complete should cover topics such as inspection of the vehicle, safety operation and techniques for handling heavy loads. Once you complete your training courses, you will be given a certificate, often referred to as a license. In addition to passing the course, you must also undergo hands-on training. Your training may teach you how to react if the forklift should tip over with a driver inside, and how to fuel up the tank.
Keep in mind that your forklift license will typically expire after a period of about three years. At that time you will need to complete another training course to renew your license.
2. DON'T Ever Operate a Forklift Without First Inspecting It Carefully
Before you drive a forklift, even for a very short distance, always perform a routine examination of the vehicle. Check the brakes to be sure they are operating correctly, and check out the steering. The controls should also be inspected, as well as the mast and body of the forklift. Be sure the warning device alarm operates as well. And equally important, you need to inspect the tires of the forklift. Finally, be sure the fluid levels, which include hydraulic fluid, brake fluid and engine oil coolant, are full.
If anything looks amiss, inform your supervisor at once. Never drive a forklift that shows a defect or damage in any way. If repairs need to be performed, the vehicle should be tagged as "non-operational".
3. DO Gear Up Properly
You need to be wearing the appropriate gear and clothing when driving a forklift. This means no loose clothing or jewelry that may snag on any moving part. Also, you need to be visible to those in the vicinity. Wear a high visibility jacket or vest when operating a forklift. You might also want to wear special driving gloves, especially if your hands tend to become greasy and cannot grip the driving wheel properly. Also, a hard hat should be worn to protect your head from falling objects from above. Failing to do so may put you at risk for an accident and get you reprimanded from your supervisor.
4. DON'T Overload Your Forklift
You need to know the capacity of your forklift (and any attachments) before attempting to load or lift heavy items. Never overload the vehicle, as this could result in a dangerous tip over. In addition, you should be certain the load you are lifting is evenly distributed.
5. DO Observe Your Environment
Before driving the forklift, you need to access the area in which the vehicle will be operating. Look for possible hazards and slippery grease spills, bumps on the ground and people that may be nearby. Being alert and aware at all times is crucial when operating a forklift.