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Safety Zone: Is Forklift Safety Something to Sing About?
Columnist, Gabriel Curry, sings an informational song detailing basic guidelines for forklift safety and proper operator training.
By Gabriel Curry
Date Posted: 10/1/2011
With apologies to the Beach Boys:
Well, he hopped into the forklift
and went cruisin’ through the whole parking lot now
Seems he forgot the ‘triangle of stability’ that he was taught now
He went up on two wheels around a turn; that’s when he was caught now But he had fun, fun, fun, till the boss man took his forklift awayayay.
I know, I know—you can’t decide whether to smile or shudder at my breezy depiction of a reckless forklift driver. Unlike many forklift incidents, at least my song has a happy ending.
I think it is also instructive how easily “forklift” can substitute for “T-Bird” in the song. I believe part of the inherent danger in lift truck equipment is that they resemble cars in deceptive ways that can lull an operator into inattention. It’s not unlike the guy who infrequently tows a trailer from his truck or SUV and completely forgets about the trailer he is towing until he looks in the mirror before changing lanes and is surprised to see it there. This kind of inattentive behavior can lead to serious accidents.
Rule no. 1 in operator training, therefore, is to emphasize the very important differences between a forklift and the other four-wheeled vehicles that the operator is accustomed to driving.
The law requires that lift truck operators be “certified” to operate the equipment and evaluated at least every three years. Certification has not been formalized like a CDL license; management may formulate their own certification program or make use of an outside expert as long as the minimum standards set forth in ANSI B56 are met. These include:
• Thorough understanding of the physics of stability, including the concepts of fulcrum point, center of gravity and the stability triangle
• Protocol for moving on ramps and sloped surfaces, uneven pavement, over train tracks, etc.
• Pedestrian safety, blind corners, etc
• Maintenance and daily inspection of equipment
• Understanding load rating labels and the dangers of unauthorized modifications to boom or forks
• Safe stacking of inventory
It is also up to management to formulate their own ways to designate their certified personnel. Larger operations may add a color code to ID badges to signify an authorized lift operator; smaller shops may simply post a sign in a conspicuous place listing the operators that are certified to use the equipment.
Evaluation of your certified operators is supposed to happen at least every three years. Any operator observed violating safety standards (or involved in an accident) should be subject to immediate evaluation and retraining. Even though the younger and less experienced on your staff are most at risk of accidents, many veteran operators who have been on the job for a decade or more never received theoretical training that OSHA now stipulates. It never hurts to augment that valuable experience with a little of the science behind load safety.
Your industrial supply house can aid you in fork truck safety with items like safety vests and bump caps for wherever forklifts and pedestrian traffic mingles, as well as parabolic mirrors to enable visibility around blind corners.
So, Let’s all have fun, fun, fun using forklifts in a responsible wayayay!
Gabriel Curry is President of Hub Industrial Supply. He can be reached by email at Gabriel@hubindustrial.com or by phone at 800-743-9401, or visit http://www.hubindustrial.com.