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Driver safety while operating forklifts

In the UK, there are over 8,000 reported accidents involving the use of forklift trucks every year, with a portion of this number resulting in fatality. Many of these injuries could be prevented with sufficient training to reduce errors and provide better knowledge of the working environment. Forklift injuries are not only caused by a lack of training however, poor maintenance of the vehicle and premises are other factors to consider, as many injuries include pedestrians rather than the operators themselves. Here, Reece Enterprise detail several ways to stay safe while operating a forklift.

Ensure training is completed

It goes without saying that only qualified persons should operate forklifts once training is successfully completed and a licence for operate the equipment has been presented. Once a qualification is granted for the forklift truck, only then is it acceptable for the person to operate.

Wear appropriate PPE

Correct PPE should be worn every time that a driver operates the forklift, usually consisting of hi-visibility jacket, safety shoes and a hard hat. It’s important to ensure that are all PPE is correctly fitted to the wearer, and is adapted as necessary for the environment.

Examine Equipment before use

It is vital that operators conduct a routine check of the equipment before driving, from checking for faulty brakes and tyres to control and steering checks. Damages should be noted and reported to the manager and should not be operated until the vehicle is repaired. Before starting the forklift, ensure that all the equipment’s controls are in reach and the seat and mirror positions are adjusted to the operator’s needs. Safety belts should be fastened before the forklift is started.

Be alert and drive safely

Consider the surrounding environment and always be wary of pedestrians, visitors, and other workers within the driving pathway and around the premises. Be vigilant not to exceed the maximum height and weight allowed for each load to ensure that the forklift can safely enter and exit buildings.

It is also vital to never exceed the speed limit of the area, both for the safety of the operator and other vehicles and workers. While driving around corners or changing direction, turn slowly to avoid tipping and damaging loads.

Hazards such as bumps, gradients and changes in flooring may present themselves within and around the building that the forklift is operated within, so avoid slippery surfaces and any areas or zones which may cause injury or collision. Keep a safe distance from other trucks and machines, with enough space to safely stop should another vehicle move unexpectedly to avoid a collision and harm to either party.

Ensure the load is stable and secure

Each load should be correctly stacked and positioned across both forks; never exceed the given limit for the forklift being operated, as this can cause damage to goods and workers if the maximum weight is exceeded. To increase the stability of a load, tilt the load back with the forks sitting low whilst transporting the load, as this will ensure that there is more support throughout the journey. If required, extra security measures such as the use of ropes or bindings to keep objects secured should be in place.

Safely park and power down the machine

After every use, the forklift should be correctly and safely parked within its designated area, with the forks fully lowered to the floor and the park brake applied. Then, switch off the forklift, removing the key and safely returning it to its station, cabinet, or designated personnel. Never leave a forklift running whilst unattended or allow an authorised person to operate it.

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