Forklift mishaps account for the deaths of nearly 100 workers and 20,000 serious injuries annually. Forklift overturns caused at least 22% of these deaths with an additional 20% of workers struck by forklifts while on foot. Over one million forklifts are in operation today, making worker and pedestrian safety essential. Learning to safely operate a forklift will save the lives of co-workers and your own. Here are some tips for lifting heavy pallets.
Before loading a forklift, first check the load. Ask yourself if the load is stable or if parts will slide or fall during transit and secure the load as necessary. The most common way to secure a load is to stack it in a block fashion, encircling the upper level with wire or strapping. A second way is to interlock the load in a brick fashion, turning each level 90 degrees. A third way is using the pinwheel method, especially when the brick pattern is unstable. To stabilize castings, bags and additional irregular shapes, use an irregular stacking pattern by placing wood strips, plywood or heavy cardboard between layers. The dimensions and weight of the load should fall within the capacity rating of the forklift at the highest elevation and extension. If they don’t, consider breaking the load into smaller parts.
If the load meets the forklift’s capacity guidelines, move the forklift squarely into position in front of the load. To keep the load balanced, position the forks wide apart and drive the forks fully under the load. Raise the bottom of the load to the proper traveling height before tilting the mast backward slightly to stabilize the load and lift. Check for pedestrians and other traffic behind and on both sides of the forklift before you back up.
Before you place the load, check to see if the destination is flat and stable, that the load won’t rock, tilt or lean. Abide by the maximum stacking quantities and orientation on printed cartons and never place heavy loads on lighter ones. You should also know the load bearing capacity of your rack and storage loft destination. Look for rack legs or support members that are bent or disconnected. The damaged component should be replaced before guessing its load bearing capacity! If racks are arranged back to back with stock behind the area where you plan to place the next load, you’ll need someone to control access in the next aisle. Make sure any wooden stringers or decking that’s been laid between the front and rear rack beams are in good condition. Check other pallets in the stack, ensuring they are in good condition and capable of supporting additional loads.
With the safety of your load’s destination verified, squarely position the forklift in front of the rack or stack and tilt the mast to level when ready. When the load is over the spot where you wish to place it, tilt the mast forward and lower the forks. Visually inspect the area to verify that the load is stable and check for pedestrians and other traffic before backing away. No one should ever walk, stand or pass under a raised load.
Operating a forklift is dangerous when safety regulations are ignored. Don’t risk your life or those around you. Follow these guidelines and those specified by forklift manufacturers for the safest results.