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The forklift is one of the most important tools in the construction world. These high-power industrial trucks allow us to complete meticulous jobs such as lifting and transporting heavy items. But although forklifts are powerful transport equipment, operating any industrial machine involves risk. With an estimated one million forklifts in use in New Zealand, it’s critical to ensure that crews are trained on proper safety procedures.

Studies conducted by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) have revealed that forklift accidents result in 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatalities each year. What’s more concerning is that 25% of these accidents happen due to a lack of OSH forklift certification training. Therefore, it’s crucial to educate every employee on the critical rules of safe forklift operation.

We recommend that everyone in your organisation, regardless of whether they actively use a forklift or not, undergoes OSH certification training by professionals. In this blog post, we’ll cover top tips for staying safe, which we also cover in our courses.

1. Get forklift certification

As mentioned earlier, most forklift accidents are connected to a lack of training. Only those trained by a licensed OSH forklift certification provider should operate a forklift.

At Roadtrain, we believe that all employers must keep evaluating their employees’ performance every three years — if not less — and keep upgrading their knowledge with regular lectures, videos, software training, and demonstrations.

2. Wear only forklift-friendly gear

Forklift operators should wear the correct safety gear, which includes safety shoes, safety helmets, and a high-visibility safety vest. Furthermore, they should also tuck in any loose clothing to avoid unwanted incidents while operating forklifts.

3. Knowing different types of forklifts

It’s important that every forklift user knows about their machine, its types and classifications. Each type has its own structure, weight limit, travel speed, turning radius, and usage. Therefore, it’s critical to understand your equipment and follow best safety practices.

4. Regular inspection before using your forklift

Before each use, all forklifts should be thoroughly inspected (on priority) by the shift supervisor daily to identify and log any problems or defects. One must never operate any equipment that needs repairing. The following are some of the recommended checks:

  • Testing the operational controls of the vehicle, including the brakes, lights, horn, and steering wheel.
  • Damage inspection on the mast as well as the overhead guard.
  • Examining the fluid and tyre levels (hydraulic, brake, engine, fuel, and coolant).
  • Checking for leaks in the water, oil, or radiator.
  • Making sure the forks are in good working order (e.g. straight, no cracks, no distortion).
  • Checking for possible threats.

As mentioned earlier, once you understand your equipment, you’ll also know how each component works. The use of a forklift necessitates compliance with all worksite rules, regulations, and signage. In OSH forklift certification training, you will learn everything about the machine to help you maintain an all-time safety.

5. Maintain 360° visibility

It’s important to keep forklifts low to the ground to have good visibility going forward. If the load in front makes it difficult for you to see, you should operate the equipment by moving in the opposite direction. When you are placing the load, you should never forget to check that you have a clear view in front. Roadtrain has identified the following as the best tactics:

  • Maintain constant eye contact with pedestrians as well as other workers at all times.
  • Always keep your eyes on the road in front of you and use your rearview mirror to improve your visibility.
  • Utilise your vehicle’s headlights whenever you are working at night, outside, or in other environments where there is a requirement for additional lighting.

6. Set up a floor marking system

The safety of the workplace can be brought under control by using a floor marking system. Marking physical hazard zones (such as areas where people are prone to fall or stumble on goods) should be done with yellow tape, while marking fire hazard zones, fire equipment, and emergency switches should be done with red tape. Installing wayfinders and signs all over the property will help to improve the flow of traffic, deter pedestrians from entering forklift lanes, and direct forklift drivers along routes that are free of hazards.

7. Maintaining your equipment’s max capacity

It’s important to always be aware of how large a load your forklift can endure, including other attachments that are used along with it. You should also remember not to transport any heavier weight than the forklift’s counterweight. If a forklift is overloaded, the rear wheels can be lifted off the ground, and the entire machine can topple over, resulting in injuries to the personnel operating the forklift and damage to the equipment and materials.

8. Never take on more people than the permissible limit

You should not permit any other workers to ride on the equipment with you unless there is already a second seat installed in the forklift. It is imperative that the forklift is not used to move people at any point, as its primary function is to move loads. If you need to lift a person, the only acceptable method is to use a caged work platform.

9. Pay close attention to how stable the forklift is before using it

Before you operate a forklift, you should make sure that both your hands and your shoes are completely dry. You should also ensure that you are seated in a comfortable position with all of the controls within easy reach. Before you start operating the forklift, you should increase your safety by securing yourself in the seat first.

Each individual load that a forklift transports has its own unique centre of gravity, which is the point at which the load’s weight is distributed evenly across its surface. Forklifts are built on a three-point suspension system that is referred to as the “stability triangle”. In order to prevent the forklift from toppling over, the operator must remain within this triangle at all times. Your forklift’s lifting capacity will decrease as the load’s weight increases because the load’s centre of gravity will shift further away from the load’s centre.

10. Make sure that the loads are stable and secure

Be sure to check the loads’ symmetry and equilibrium before placing them on the loading dock. It’s important to travel with the load tilted backwards and keep the forks as low as possible to increase the equipment’s stability, particularly when navigating ramps. If it is necessary to do so, use ropes or bindings to secure stacks as well as heavy loads, and check to see that any pallets or skids being used are of an appropriate weight for the load.

11. Maintain a speed limit that’s right for your workplace

Keep your forklift within the prescribed speed limits at all times. When making sharp turns, it’s important that you avoid stopping, turning, or changing directions abruptly. Moving too fast can also cause your forklift to topple over.

If your forklift begins tiling, you shouldn’t try to leap away from the machine. We at Roadtrain suggest that you remain seated in the vehicle, maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel, and brace yourself with your feet.

12. Always maintain an appropriate operating distance

Keep a check on the other forklifts present at your workplace. Avoid operating a forklift too close to another machine unless absolutely necessary. Always maintain a safe distance between the two machines. This will give you enough room to safely stop your forklift and keep your distance from other machines that are moving unpredictably.

13. Stay away from the risky zones around the equipment

It’s best to avoid walking or standing directly under a load, lifting loads, or forklift attachments, as loads have the potential to topple and injure anyone below them. If you want to avoid getting seriously hurt, you should keep your hands and feet well away from the forklift mast at all times.

14. Ensure that your forklifts are fueled and charged

It is essential that the equipment is always charged and fueled. Always refuel and recharge your forklift in areas that are more or less well-ventilated and do not have any open flames around. Always ensure the machine is turned off before being refuelled by maintaining extra caution.

15. At the end of the shift, park the forklift in its parking spot

Always park your forklift in designated parking zones only (that is, a place where you are permitted to use at the end of each shift). The construction company’s responsibility is to ensure that the parking areas do not obstruct any pathways, exits or entrances to the building. Put the parking brake on, switch off the engine, and remove the key from the ignition before lowering the forks until they are flush with the floor.

That’s all! Although the list can be exhausting, if you feel we’ve missed anything crucial, feel free to let us know. Meanwhile, we hope this blog post helps you cover the basics of forklift safety and awareness at your workplace.

If you want to sign up for an OSH forklift certification training, feel free to get in touch with us.