Operating a forklift is tough enough in the summer but when the weather turns foul and daylight diminishes forklift operators face an even greater set of challenges. With Thanksgiving behind us we’re now faced with the rain, sleet and snow that will inevitably fall across much of the country in late November and early December. Sure there have been other snow storms like the one that took place earlier this fall along a portion of the east coast hit by Hurricane Sandy as well as others which means there’s no time like the present for forklift operators to brush up on winter safety tips.
For business owners forklift safety is a critical issue. In fact, it’s a matter of life and death for the forklift operators working on these important pieces of equipment day in and day out. One of the biggest hazards to forklift operators is being in too much of a hurry to complete a load. If you’ve ever rushed on foot across a parking lot in the middle of a rain or ice storm, you know how easy it is to slip and fall. Most drivers will creep along in their cars as they make their way to a parking spot so they don’t hydroplane into another car, or even worse into a pedestrian. Why then would driving a forklift in the pouring rain, snow and blowing wind be any different?
Driving a forklift in winter weather requires extra preparation especially since working in inclement weather can cause you to lose concentration on the job at hand. Smart and experienced forklift operators know that part of staying safe means staying comfortable and there are some easy and inexpensive ways you can protect yourself from the elements so you can avoid making costly mistakes. Dressing properly is essential. Be sure to wear water and wind proof clothing along with gloves and a hat. It’s important to dress in layers. Midwesterners know that a typical fall day can begin at 30 degrees in the morning and warm up to 60 and 70 degrees in the afternoon. For brisk and bitterly cold days no forklift operator should be without spun polypropylene underwear. Used by Olympic skiers, polypropylene underwear will keep you warm and dry even if you work up a sweat on a cold day. Many experienced forklift operators find that outerwear made of breathable Gortex in a high visibility color can literally save a life on a dark morning or evening. Motorcyclists wear such high visibility clothing to be seen on highways and the same principals can be applied in warehouses and parking lots too.
And speaking of visibility, it’s time to remove that plywood, plastic shrink wrap or cardboard cover you’ve been using as a forklift cover. When OSHA comes calling they won’t be impressed with that homemade cover. Truth be told, your friends weren’t either. If your forklift cover isn’t clear and blocks the operator’s view, you’ll be facing OSHA fines just in time for Christmas. By the same token, you should avoid those cheap flexible vinyl covers too since they’re blurry to see through. Besides, rain water puddles when it’s used as a roof and you have instant Niagra Falls every time you step on the brakes. Instead, choose a cover designed with ribs and gutters to handle the water. While tough polycarbonate covers with a simple design cost more than the flexible vinyl covers, they’re a lot less expensive than having to pay a safety fine.
When it comes to safely operating a forklift this winter operators should wear comfortable clothing that keeps them highly visible even in dark settings. When forklift operators are comfortable they’re more likely to stay safe and avoid costly mistakes.