Forklifts are the workhorses of industry. They’re essential to efficient material-handling operations. But forklifts are also big, dangerous, and potentially deadly pieces of equipment. To protect employees, you need strict rules and a comprehensive training and evaluation program. Preventing forklift accidents is within the reach of any forklift safety program.
What you need is:
• A strict and consistently enforced policy that clearly states that no unauthorized worker of any age is allowed to operate a forklift
• Comprehensive training, evaluation, and certification for those who are authorized to drive forklifts
• Emphasis during training on safe operation as well as on what could go wrong and how to prevent problems that can lead to accidents
• Close supervision of forklift operations
You also have to design a program specifically for your facility that includes:
• Establishing safe speed limits and traffic rules
• Assigning and marking forklift lanes
• Posting warning sign
• Requiring drivers to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and to sound their horn at intersections, corners, etc.
• Insisting that operators wear seat belts
• Training forklift operators to stay at least three truck lengths behind another lift truck
• Requiring drivers to slow down for turns, be especially careful on inclines, and stay away from ramp or platform edges
• Teaching procedures to be followed in the event of a tip-over
• Training drivers how to raise and lower loads correctly, and how to position loads when traveling
• Teaching nonoperators to work and move safely around forklifts
Of course, no forklift safety program is complete without a strong training component that makes sure only well-trained, safe drivers ever get behind the wheel of a lift truck.
OSHA’s forklift training requirements (29 CFR 1910.178(l)) specify that operator training must:
• Be conducted by trainers who have the requisite knowledge and experience to train operators and evaluate their performance
• Consist of a combination of formal instruction and practical training
• Teach operators about forklift-related topics such as operating instructions, vehicle inspection, lifting capacity, and other operating limitations
In addition, you must evaluate forklift operator performance at least once every 3 years and retrain if:
• An operator is involved in an accident or near-miss
• An operator has been observed driving unsafely
• An evaluation has determined the operator needs additional training
• An operator is assigned to use a different kind of forklift
• There are changes in the workplace that could affect safe forklift operations.