It is a truth universally acknowledged that people have done, do, and will continue to do dumb and unsafe things, whether intentionally or not, in all areas of life. Forklift operations is one of these areas.
There is, unfortunately, a number of different dumb (and unsafe) things people do with forklifts. Some of these things are intentional while some are accidental; some are the result of laziness and others the result of pure ignorance or poor decision making.
While many forklift operators and other warehouse employees may walk away from unsafe forklift operations or stupid forklift stunts unscathed, many others are not so fortunate. Unsafe forklift operations can lead to accidents, which can cause injury, illness, and even death. Therefore, it’s important to learn what dumb, unsafe forklift behaviors to avoid so you can help prevent unnecessary workplace accidents.
Here is a list of some of the common unsafe practices employed during forklift use:
Allowing untrained or unauthorized employees to operate or ride on forklifts
Allowing untrained, uncertified, unauthorized, or unskilled workers to operate a forklift is probably the most common unsafe practice regarding forklift operations. Proper training and certification is REQUIRED for someone to be able to operate a forklift, and only those people who are trained/certified (and demonstrate the proper knowledge, skills, and safety precautions) should be able to drive a forklift.
Further, designated forklift operators must always be properly trained and certified. Failure to train/certify forklift operators is unfortunately, common. Knowledge and skill aren’t enough; proper training and certification is necessary.
Related to this unsafe practice is allowing other people to “ride” on a forklift as if they were passengers in a vehicle. Forklifts are not meant to carry or lift people; they are meant for cargo!
Operating forklifts that require repair
Another unsafe forklift practice is operating a forklift that requires repair. Just like someone wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) operate a car that needs repairing, so should forklift operators avoid driving and using a malfunctioning forklift until it is repaired.
Leaving forklifts running while not in use
Some people lack the common sense to actually turn off the forklift when it’s not in use—or perhaps they’re just lazy. This is a very dumb, unsafe practice that is almost “asking” for an accident, and should always be avoided.
Using forklifts as “tow trucks” to tow very heavy objects
Some companies or manufacturers may suggest that it’s okay to use forklifts as “tow trucks” to tow heavy objects around a warehouse or farm, but this is generally considered an unsafe practice.
Driving a forklift under the influence
This should go without saying, but people continue to do dumb and unsafe things. Forklift operators should never attempt to operate a forklift while under the influence of alcohol, recreational drugs, or certain medications that may cause drowsiness, dizziness, etc.
It may seem fun and exciting, but forklift racing [forklift operators driving different forklifts down the aisle(s)] is really just asking for trouble. It’s a dumb idea, it’s incredibly unsafe, and it’s also just plain unprofessional. Heavy-duty machinery should never be used for racing.
Forklift “jousting” has become a popular (although dumb and unsafe) forklift pastime for bored and unsupervised warehouse employees. It’s essentially “bumper cars” using forklifts.
Using the forklift for anything other than its intended purpose
Forklifts should be used only for what they were designed to be used for: to lift and transport weight-appropriate cargo and materials.
Common sense, knowledge, and follow-through are powerful weapons when it comes to safety around forklifts and safely operating forklifts. If you are a forklift operator, warehouse supervisor, or otherwise around forklifts or involved with forklift operations, avoid doing any of the above dumb (and unsafe) things people do with forklifts, and learn proper forklift safety policies and procedures and follow them. You’ll be doing your part to ensure a safe work environment for you and your coworkers.
Consider purchasing this FORKLIFT SAFETY TRAINING KIT to better educate yourself and your employees of the proper use of your material handling equipment. If used properly, it will help you and your employees meet all OSHA safety training regulations.