Forklift Safety Checklist for Drivers

In the United States today, there are over one million active forklifts and almost twice that many qualified or experienced operators for the vehicle. As there is projected growth in industries where forklifts are needed, we can just see how the figures will continue to increase in the coming years. This increase could also mean an increase in risks and accidents resulting from forklifts. It’s considered a hazardous occupation to be a forklift driver, and having the vehicle in any workplace poses dangers to employees. This useful heavy equipment is a source of damage, injuries and even fatalities in the workplace.

Topping the reasons for such tragedies and losses is poor driver training. This could result in the most common accident for forklifts, which is overturns, and also crashing. There are also forklift mishaps that occur because of unsafe workplace environments and disorderly placements of items. But again, we go back to the very important factor in preventing such accidents — the driver.

Qualification, Experience and Credentials

It is not enough that the driver or operator knows how to drive just any vehicle. A forklift is a different kind of machine altogether because it moves around materials and loads and unloads them. One must operate the forklift around warehouses or storage yard settings, in factories, construction sites, and docks and other transportation facilities. So it’s not just about driving but being able to manipulate the vehicle’s hydraulic system to lift, carry, retrieve, stack and ferry mostly large objects from one place to another. While the basics of maneuvering are present, there are complexities in driving the forklift that a trained and qualified operator must possess.

When we talk about forklift operator qualifications, experience is key — but credentials are also vital. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducts compliance training for would-be operators to ensure that they pass the standardized qualifications. There are certifications issued for what specific forklifts the operators may drive. Credentials are also handed out to them by different authorities when they have met certain requirements for forklift operation.

Driver… Know The Vehicle’s Condition Today

Accidents arising from the forklift could be avoided if the driver ensures that the vehicle is up and ready to be operated for the day. We will discuss the important to-do’s for the forklift drivers before using the machine, while driving and upon completing work.

The forklift operator must first be ready for the day. This means being appropriately dressed, including work boots and hard hats, and a high visibility jacket or vest. Depending on the identified hazards at the workplace, the operator must also have gloves, and ear and eye protection.

Before boarding the forklift, the operator must perform a careful inspection to ensure everything is in good condition. The tires must be at the right pressure and in good condition to prevent tipping of the vehicle. The forks, the mast, and overhead must be in excellent form as well.

Upon mounting, the driver will have to follow a routine check that operations of the forklift are in place. The first thing to do once up is to make sure the load capacity plate is readable. Since this shows the basis for what the vehicle can handle, the operator must be able to refer to the plate quickly. Next, the horns must be working, as they are vital to alerting people that the forklift is approaching intersections, when there’s a visual obstruction, or simply to communicate their presence in the workplace. The mirrors must be in proper position, and the driver must feel comfortable with his seat, the armrest and the backrest.

What comes after is to check the hydraulics to ensure there are no leaks, especially because the leaks could result in slipping. Presence of anything unusual like grease, lint or oil could catch fire, so the vehicle must be wiped clean. Where the materials came from should be examined further as it could something more risky.

An essential part of the routine inspection is making sure that the fuel connection is tight. The battery terminals must be scrutinized, and then made sure that it is covered properly. There is too much risk with uncovered terminals as one piece of metal or foreign object could result to explosion. The engine must then be turned on to check if there are signs of overheating. The exhaust system must be observed to see if it emits sparks or flames. If so, the operator must forego using the vehicle and take the necessary actions to address the issue. The lights must also be tested to see if they’re operational, as well as the seat belts.

A run-through is essential to also check if the steering wheel is responsive and easy to control. Difficulty in maneuvering the steering wheel is a surefire sign of danger. The brakes must be able to render smooth and reliable stops, particularly because sudden braking could lead to tipping of the forklift. The next important thing to do is to make sure that the controls are working. The lift, the lower and the forklift tilt must work efficiently, responding immediately as controlled. If at any time the forklift operator observes something is amiss, help must be sought and provided by a qualified mechanic or supervisor to address the problem. More often than not, the more complex mechanical aspects of the forklift would be beyond the knowledge of the operator, so it’s best that an expert does the work.

Once confident that the forklift is ready for the day’s work, the driver must keep in mind that he is in full control of the vehicle. Distractions such as a passenger, gadgets or phones, and even music could prove risky as it will lessen the driver’s attention to his work. Full awareness of what he is doing and what is going on in his work environment is essential for a forklift driver to operate safely.

The forklift must also just run within the provided speed limit, and not make sudden starts, stops or changes in direction. When making turns, the safest way to go is do it slowly to avoid tipping or turning over. Always drive slowly and honk the horns in areas such as corners, exits and entrances, stairways and everywhere else where pedestrian traffic is present. Drivers should also watch out for other trucks and make sure there’s a safe distance between them.

Now we come to the load — the core of the forklift. It must be correctly stacked on the pallet before being retrieved, and must be stable once on the forks. Securing measures must also be used to make sure the load doesn’t slip or fall off. At the same time, the weight must be allowable according to the forklift’s capability, and checked as well that there is even distribution of the load’s total weight. When driving, it is vital that the forklift operator avoids bumps, loose materials and objects on the floor. Otherwise, the load could slip and cause a dangerous imbalance.

All these things might sound easy to carry out — and to the experienced forklift operator, quick to do. But still, accidents happen because of over-confidence and lax attitude of the driver. This is why it’s very, very important that the operator make this a daily commitment to complete the checklist. It’s best that the routine be completed because the short cuts could cost lives or limbs.