4 Warehouse Forklift Safety Essentials
The need to have a strong forklift safety program is essential with the number of transient workers that come through warehouses, the hustle and bustle of getting orders shipped out and deliveries onto the racks and a variety of other concerns.
A quick walkthrough many warehouses will show machines being driven faster than they should be, unsecured or uneven loads, forks being raised and lowered as lifts are turning, and random foot traffic. Remember, you, as a pedestrian, will not win against a machine that weighs thousands of pounds!
So, where should we focus our attention?
1. Train Your Operators
There is no substitute for good training. I’ve seen what it does to a warehouse when workers operate vehicles without proper training. You’ve probably seen some of the catastrophes. We have a forklift fail video showing some of these accidents with some safety tips.
Training your employees properly means that they do NOT operate equipment until they have passed your competency exam. The temptation to have someone ill-equipped to operate forklifts should be squashed immediately. One wrong move could cause the collapse of racking systems, putting people and material at risk.
Here are a few points for you to be thinking about as you develop your training program:
- Training continues after the initial competency test. Make sure that you continually observe your drivers to ensure continued proficiency and safe practices
- Revoke permission and retrain operators that show repetitive dangerous behaviors
- Regularly reinforce the requirements for safe operation, including the OSHA standards
Injury and death are real consequences. Beyond this, delays in work, destruction of material, loss of morale, and loss of trust are other potential costs. Don’t let your warehouse end up in a YouTube video.
Train. Train. Train.
2. Protect Foot Traffic
We mentioned YouTube above and I have seen enough incidents involving forklifts driving into people that I know this is a serious issue.
Good training can go a long way to protecting the workers on foot. But why stop there when there are more ways to reduce risk?
Create a designated walkway in your warehouse to reduce people randomly wandering the floor, making it difficult for forklift operators to navigate the warehouse safely and efficiently. You can do this by painting lines to clearly designate safe walking zones.
Don’t stop there, though. You can use guardrails to create physical barriers to help operators to see the designated walking zone and provide some protection in the case of an accident. One of our customers installed guardrail in the center of their warehouse lanes to allow access to racks on both sides of the lane.
Guardrails, impact barriers, and bollards are all good ways to protect your warehouse foot traffic when coupled with proper training.
3. Protect Your Pallet Racks and Shelving
Clipping or running into a rack can cause damage to racks and products. In some cases, it can cause the whole shelving unit to collapse. There are instances when the whole warehouse experiences a domino of collapsed racks.
Imagine the risk to life and all the damage done because of a single accident!
As before, training is the first line of defense when aiming to protect your shelving. For instance, enforcing a proper speed limit will give drivers more of a chance to correct a miscalculation before colliding with a rack.
Making sure your aisles are wide enough is a helpful next step when trying to avoid these types of accidents. Your driver may simply not have enough space to perform the maneuvers he needs to get around the warehouse.
The next thing to do is to start protecting the racks themselves. There are guards designed specifically for racks. You can also use safety bollards and impact barriers to keep your shelving units safe. These have the double benefit of protecting your racks as well as creating higher visibility.
4. Inspect Forklifts and Working Conditions
Just like any other piece of equipment, forklifts need to be inspected prior to use. How are the tires? Is there a properly charged fire extinguisher? Do all the controls work properly? Do your blinkers and horn function properly? Are your mirrors in place? Are there any leaks?
But inspections are not just limited to the equipment itself. What about the conditions of the warehouse you’re working in? Is the floor level? Are there any overhead obstacles you need to be concerned with? Are there any ramps you will have to traverse? Pipe leaks, leaks from other machines, or any other spill that could cause a problem for you?
And don’t forget trailers. If you’re about to load or unload a truck, you have more inspections to do. Is the floor of the trailer capable of supporting the weight of the lift and load? Is it in good condition? Are the wheels chocked or is the trailer otherwise secured? Is the truck turned off and the driver out of the cab (watch the video to see why this is important)?
Never take for granted that somebody else has checked the things that your safety and well-being depend on. Inspect, inspect, inspect.
There is no lack of danger in a warehouse. Forklifts will always pose some danger to warehouse workers, but that danger can be exponentially increased if the lift isn’t being operated properly.
Institute the proper controls and then train. Train your operators on how to safely handle the machines and train your people on the floor on how to behave around lifts.
If everyone works together, everyone goes home safe at the end of the shift.