30 Dec 2013
Safe operations is everybody’s business. Not only does it create a healthier and more productive work environment, but it also can result in fewer accidents, employee injuries, and workmen’s compensation claims. That means higher profits, which is the aim of every business.
Business seeking to make their warehouses and manufacturing facilities safer need look no further than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration,which has offered these basic safety guidelines on the use of forklifts in the workplace to create a less dangerous and more productive work environment:
- Unless workers have been specifically trained and certified on operating a forklift, they should not be allowed to drive one of these potentially dangerous or deadly vehicles.
- Whenever possible, keep forklift traffic away from workers on foot.
- Identify forklift aisles with physical barriers whenever practical to reduce the possibility of collision with pedestrians.
- Look for blind corners and install overhead dome mirrors to improve visibility for both operators and employees on foot.
- Train operators to make their presence known constantly, using horns, alarms and flashing lights at every possible opportunity to warn other workers that they are in the area.
- Require both workers and facility visitors to wear brightly-colored safety vests at all times.
- Whenever visitors are in the facility, make an announcement over the public address system so all workers know to be aware of their presence.
- Workers on foot should be required to acknowledge forklift operators with a wave or at least with visual eye contact before walking into an area where a forklift is being used.
- Appoint a team member or group of employees to a safety committee that periodically makes recommendations for improving workplace safety. It’s easy to become blind to potential dangers when you work in the same area all the time. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all it takes to recognize dangers that are right in front of you.
- One of the most common injuries in forklift tipping accidents is for operators to be crushed by the vehicle when jumping out. Train operators of sit-down forklifts to stay in the vehicle if tipping occurs, holding on firmly and leaning away from the point of impact.
- Operators of stand-up forklifts with rear-entry access should be trained to exit the vehicle by stepping backward if a lateral tipover is imminent.
- Require and monitor the use of operator restraint systems on sit-down forklifts. It’s a good idea to create a policy and procedure and then have every forklift operator read and sign the policy during the training and certification process.
- Make it mandatory for operators to conduct a preshift safety inspection of their vehicle prior to starting work. Facilitate the process by providing forms, pens and clipboards.
Worker safety education is a continuous process. Once you develop a comprehensive safety training program — which includes operator licensing and a schedule for reviewing and modifying the program as necessary — it should be introduced to employees in a formal classroom training session then reinforced annually with refresher training.