Warehouse Safety: forklifts and lift trucks
Warehouse Safety—why is it important? Warehouse work presents various short and long term heath and safety issues – these range from musculoskeletal injuries from awkward bending and lifting positions, to chemical and biological hazards from chemicals and natural factors like dampness or mould.
Warehouses are also busy places—we live in an age where everyone wants things « now! »—but during the holiday season, warehouses tend to become even more crowded. Employees, heavy equipment & machinery and packages on the floor all create obstacles for forklift and lift truck operators. Warehouse safety is easy to overlook during busy periods, especially when employees rush to meet deadlines and fill orders.
Busy times enhance the need for warehouse safety, since this is when hazards are most likely to become injurious or fatal. We know warehouse safety can feel like a nuisance, but we assure you—it never is.
In this article on warehouse safety, the spotlight is on forklift and lift truck safety on the warehouse floor. Forklifts are great to lift and move almost anything, and have become essential to any warehouse operation. However, each year there are nearly 500,000 serious injuries from forklift accidents and 85 fatalities.
Read on for common dangers for a forklift found on the warehouse floor, and our tips to keep your forklift operating safely and smoothly.
Forklift & Lift Trucks: common warehouse incidents
As we previously mentioned, forklifts are a very common presence in most industries and are found in the majority of warehouses. Due to being found in so many places, one of the biggest dangers forklifts present is the assumption that they aren’t dangerous. Often, workers become « used » to operating a forklift and forget to follow certain operating procedures, which can result in accidents.
The Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) says common forklift injuries and accidents involving workers include:
- Forklifts being driven off loading docks;
- Falling between a dock and an unsecured trailer;
- A worker being struck by a forklift when it’s in reverse and the operator cannot see the worker;
- A forklift tipping over and crushing an operator or worker;
- The load on a lift truck isn’t secured or loaded properly and falls off the forks;
- The operator not keeping their arms and legs inside the cab, which causes them to slip/fall when they get out of the cab.
It’s still a piece of heavy machinery that can cause escalating incidents, as we’ve seen from certain viral videos. This is why it’s important to train new employees and existing employees, to ensure they’re updated on current operating procedures and safety standards. Other common forklift accidents include racking and property damage—which can include anything from damage to other equipment or the building itself. The IHSA says these accidents are caused by three main factors:
- Insufficient training
- Little safety rule enforcement
- Lack of safe operating procedures
Warehouse Safety: inspect your forklift
When using a forklift under normal conditions, the CCOHS recommends inspecting forklifts both daily and every six months. A daily visual inspection should include looking for any visible defects or cracks, while a 6-month inspection should be done by a certified inspection technician.
To inspect your forklift, look for:
- Exposed wires coming from any cables;
- Worn, loose or dirty battery plug connections;
- Clogged vent caps;
- Leaks in the hydraulic system;
- Damaged wheels;
- Wear, bends or cracks in forks;
- Broken or chipped carriage teeth;
- Chain anchor pins that are worn, loose or bent;
- Damp/dry spots that would indicate a leak;
- Chipped paint or other marks indicating damage (thought it seems minor, this is essential for roll-over protection);
- Securely held hoses that aren’t crimped or worn.
Before operating your forklift, make sure:
- Air pressure is good in tires;
- Positioning latches are in good working condition;
- Engine oil, fuel and radiator water levels are good;
- Battery is fully-charged and secured in place.
Operational Inspection Checklist—make sure:
- Horn works loud enough to be heard clearly in working environment;
- Floor brake and pedal works—check pedal travel;
- Parking brake holds against slight acceleration;
- Deadman seat brake holds against slight acceleration;
- Clutch and gearshift shifts smoothly with no jerks;
- Lights and gauges work on dash control panel;
- Steering is not « sticky » and works smoothly;
- Lift mechanism operates smoothly (to check, raise forks to maximum height and lower completely);
- Tilt mechanism moves smoothly and holds (to check, tilt mast all the way forward and back);
- Mast and carriage don’t have any lose or missing bolts, chain tension or damage;
- Cylinders and hoses aren’t leaking;
- Your seatbelt is fastened;
- Forklift does not make unusual sounds.
Your daily inspection should include not only the forklift, but the warehouse floor itself. On the warehouse floor, look for:
- Misplaced items on the floor that will create an obstacle;
- Overhead obstructions;
- A registered fire extinguisher that’s able to use.
Warehouse Safety: operating & controlling your forklift
When you lift a load, be sure to not move or adjust any part of the load while it’s on the forks.
To load pallets, CCOHS suggests ensuring forks are:
- High enough to stack the pallet;
- Proper width to distribute weight evenly (otherwise they’ll become unstable);
- Under the load completely and reaching two-thirds of the load length.
Driving with a Load 101
Support the load with the front wheels of the forklift, and be sure to turn with your back forklift wheels. Be sure to never overload your forks, as this makes it difficult to maintain control of the forklift—do not add a counterweight to fix this!
When travelling on an incline, keep forks pointed downwards when travelling without a load and keep them pointed upwards when travelling with a load. Do not turn until on level ground.
Tips to maintain control with pallets:
- Carry load with front wheels;
- Turn with rear wheels;
- Don’t take sharp turns at high speeds;
- Don’t overload or add extra weight.
Be sure to avoid any sudden stops and always look in the direction that you’re travelling, whether going forward or in reverse. When in reverse, go slowly, sound your horn before proceeding and stop if vision is limited or blocked. Sound your horn, and proceed with caution.
While driving the forklift, obey posted signs, keep forks as low to the floor as possible and tilted back, decrease speed at turns and sound the horn. Remember, when it comes to using your horn— it’s better to make too much noise than not enough.
While on the floor look, remember to look for:
- Oil spots
- Wet spots
- Loose objects
- Rough surfaces
- People/vehicles on the floor or roadway
At Hercules SLR, we provide hands-on training with a focus on safety—it’s important for us to provide a lasting impression and knowledge you and your employees can take with them. Find more information on our Forklift Safety Training courses here.
Find more information on Hercules SLR inspection services here, so your forklifts remain in top condition—Plus, learn more about the benefits of our asset management tool CertTracker® for your forklifts and other heavy machinery and equipment.
References:- https://www.ihsa.ca/pdfs/magazine/volume_11_Issue_4/safety_talk_lift_trucks_warehouse.pdf- https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/forklift/control.html - https://www.ccohs.ca/headlines/text16.html
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