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Forklift Safety: Conduct Pre-Shift Safety Inspections
One of the most challenging issues regarding forklift safety is dealing with pre-shift safe operation inspections. Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not require these checks to be made in writing.

By David Hoover
Date Posted: 9/1/2007

   One of the most challenging issues regarding forklift safety is dealing with pre-shift safe operation inspections.

   Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not require these checks to be made in writing, and this is covered in a letter of interpretation which is located on the OSHA Web site. Even so, from a functional and legal standpoint, it is very wise to document everything in writing. If the inspection is not documented in writing, you will have a hard time proving it was done.

   The following are some of the problems with regards to forklift inspections:

   1. Have your operators been properly trained what to look for, and do they know what to do when they find something wrong?

   What are your procedures for taking a forklift out of service? Do you use lockout procedures as you would on your production machines? If not, you should.

   Do your company and its supervisors enforce forklift safety inspections, or would they continue to operate a forklift that failed inspection because it was ‘really critical to production?’

   I had a situation recently where a group of supposedly very experienced operators could not figure out how to pop the hood on the forklift and had to be shown where to check the fluids!  This sounds funny, but it is all too common, and it told me they had never really checked out their forklifts properly.

   2. Are the forklifts actually inspected, or is the safety checklist merely ‘pencil whipped?’

   Does the operator fill out the whole list in five seconds, or does he conduct an adequate inspection of the forklift?

   I have seen checklists with 100 items, which is unreasonable, and others with only five items, which cannot begin to cover all the required items. Be sure the checklist is geared to your type of forklift; it should not include any items that are not applicable to the forklift.

   3. Large fleets and companies with multiple shifts have a challenge in keeping track of a lot of paperwork.

   If you have 10 forklifts and run them three shifts every day, you will have a stack of paperwork very quickly, making it is easy to give up in frustration and let things go.

   An OSHA compliance officer told me that he inspected 25 of a company’s 80 forklifts; 16 of the 25 failed the safety inspection and had to be removed from service immediately!

   My recommendations for solving these problems are very simple:

   1. Come up with a reasonable checklist for each different type of forklift you operate (sit-down propane, sit-down electric, rough terrain forklifts, etc.)

   Consult with your local forklift dealer, check out the forklift’s operator manual and look at OSHA’s Web site for examples to help you. Consider using a format like carbonless paper, which will allow you to deal with issues from one copy and still keep a permanent copy for your files.

   2. Come up with a system so problems can be identified and dealt with quickly.

   I have seen businesses where someone has a great safety checklist, but by the time the information gets to the right place, it is two weeks old – too late to address critical safety issues.

   3. Enforce the completion of the forklift safety inspection just as you do with other safety rules.

   If forklift operators perceive that completing the safety inspection checklist is an ‘option,’ it will never get done. If the inspection is mandatory and there are consequences for not completing it, they will do the inspections.

   For some examples of safety inspection checklists and how they function, check out the following links: www.osha.gov/dcsp/ote/trng-materials/pit/pit.html www.forklifttrainingsystem.com/products/safety/liftTruck.htm

   (David Hoover is president of Forklift Training Systems.  For more information on this or other topics related to forklift training, safety or products, contact David at (740) 763-4978,  e-mail dhoover@forklifttrainingsystem.com, or visit his company’s Web site at www.forklifttrainingsystem.com.)

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