Forklift Rodeos Highlight Importance of Safety

What’s a fun event that appeals to those in the material handling industry? A forklift rodeo. Sure, you could have the same old annual company holiday party but a forklift rodeo is an event that includes activities to engage a crowd while highlighting the importance of safety. Plus the winner has bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Yale 3,000 Pneumatic 1Forklift rodeos are taking place all over the country. Earlier this fall, more than 16 forklift operators from eight different companies competed in Greenville, North Carolina. Hosted by Pitt Community College and Greenville Utilities, the annual event brings companies together while highlighting the importance of safety. Operators drove through three different obstacle courses while family and friends cheered them on and judges watched for safety violations. The top three operators with the fastest times and fewest penalties were awarded cash and prizes, along with bragging rights in the warehouse.

Competitions like these are increasing in popularity with many companies holding their own contests to select who they will send to represent them at bigger events like the one in Greenville, North Carolina. Hosting a forklift rodeo takes a committed team and lots of planning. But the benefits of friendly competition and operator morale are worth the time and effort.

Depending on the number of operators, a forklift rodeo on average requires at least 6 forklifts. You’ll need one for each event plus one to serve as a warm-up or spare. For obstacles on your course, use traffic cones or skids. If you’re short on skids, you can use three cones. If you’re short on traffic cones, use one skid instead. The best way to outline courses for a forklift rodeo is with traffic barrels, cones or yellow caution tape. Use duct tape to indicate the direction operators should travel through the course. You’ll need baskets or crates, 1 basket shalom, 3 four squares, 1 pallet ballet, 2 trailer hitches, a backboard and basketball as well as score sheets for each contestant.

One course that’s been used in many forklift rodeos requires an operator to travel around a circle twice with lowered empty forks– first going forward and the second time in reverse. Going through one opening forward and the next in reverse is not permitted. When it comes to judging this event, timing starts when the front forks cross the start line and stops when the forklift’s rear wheels cross the finish line. Judges will charge penalty points for each observed violation. Operators who drive outside an event area or who drive out of control will be disqualified from the event.

The load for this particular race can be one basket, a crate or pallet. You’ll need traffic cones or pallets for obstacles. Pallets should be 4 ft. long. If you’re using cones they should be placed to form a 4 ft. obstacle. Spacing between obstacles is usually 50-55 inches. Be sure to accommodate for the width of the forklifts you are using and adjust your spacing accordingly.

The sole purpose of a forklift rodeo is to promote safe and efficient operation of Powered Industrial Trucks, aka forklifts or towmotors. Competitions should be conducted in accordance with OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.178.

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