Forklift Operation Basics

Operating a forklift requires familiarity with certain critical safety features.  Despite their smaller size, fully loaded forklifts can weigh as much as a school bus and abiding by these safety precautions could be the difference between injury and death.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

Before you get in the driver’s seat, walk around the forklift and check for any fluid leaks.  Search the surrounding floor for small puddles.  Examine hydraulic line hoses for splits and leaks around the fittings.  A line burst during operation could seriously injure the operator and fluid on the tires will cause the vehicle to slip and slide out of control.  Refer to the owner’s manual for the location of fluid reservoirs and safe operating levels.  Also check for loose bolts on the roll cage and that the warning light is functioning properly.  Roll cages prevent serious injury should you tip over.  In poorly lit areas forklifts warn people of the forklifts operation.

Inspect the forklift for any cracks in the steel or bends in the fork’s length.  A damaged fork could result in an accident while lifting a load.  If a bent fork catches on the floor, the vehicle could stop suddenly.  Bent forks can also catch and tip over a load when a forklift moves in for a pick up.

OSHA requires seatbelt use and if you’re not wearing the seatbelt during an inspection, your company will face a fine.  If the forklift tips over during operation, the seatbelt will prevent you from being ejected and crushed.  Make sure to securely fasten the seatbelt around your waist once you’re seated.  Once you have powered up the forklift, apply the brake pedal, checking for softness.  Move forward and look for hydraulic line leaks you may have missed before.  Shift the forklift into reverse and remain stopped, listening for the alarm to sound that warns the forklift is backing up.  Test the horn as it too is critical to forklift safety.  Report and repair any defects or safety hazards.

Wheels in the back of the forklift are used for turning and may take new operators time to get used to forklift’s tighter turning capabilities.  Operators should never drive forward with forks raised and should lift them off the ground a few inches before proceeding.  Use a wide open space to familiarize yourself with forklift operation and before you attempt to lift a load, be aware of lift capacity.  A load that’s too heavy can raise the forklift’s rear off the ground and create a safety hazard.  When picking up a load, be cautious.  Driving too fast may cause the forks to strike something and tip the load over or cause the forklift to suddenly stop.  With the forks placed under the pallet, tilt the load back slightly and then lift it off the ground.  Before moving with the load, determine the load’s height.  If the load extends beyond halfway up the mast, drive in reverse.  Below that, you’ll have a clear line of sight.  Be sure to always use the horn when backing up and traveling around corners.

Unfortunately, knowing forklift safety procedures is not enough.  Operators must also practice them.

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