Safer Forklift Operation

Safer forklift operation
Ten tips to reduce the risk of accidents in the warehouse

Warehouses can be dangerous places. Narrow aisles and walkways snake around vast areas and there is no guarantee when or where an obstacle or a pedestrian may turn up.

Forklift drivers in particular need to be ultra-vigilant at all times to avoid the risk of accidents – which are unfortunately still all too common and can result in serious injury or even fatalities. We have put together ten tips to help you ensure safer working conditions in your warehouse.

10 tips for more safety when handling forklifts

No. 1: Training matters!

A forklift is a potentially lethal piece of equipment and should only be operated by drivers who have been specifically trained and certified to work with each type of truck he or she may be required to operate. Our fleet management system ELOfleet can prevent the unauthorised use of of equipment by means of its electronic access control and vehicle administration facility. It also gives you a good overview of truck activity – intensity of use for example.

But an initial one-off training course is not enough, as quick learners can be quick forgetters too. Regular refresher courses serve to keep safety uppermost in employees’ minds, even if assistance systems are in place. As part of our after sales service we offer comprehensive training programmes. As well as specific courses tailored to our products we can also train our customers’ employees who can then pass on their expertise in-house.

No. 2: Daily pre-shift checks

Before any truck is switched on it needs to undergo a thorough inspection - including the requisite safety checks - to ensure that it is in a fit state to be operated. Any problems or defects need to be reported to the shift supervisor. Trucks that are not in proper working order should be disabled and taken out of service to prevent any accidental use.

No. 3: Know your route

Warehouse aisles are often narrow and visibility can be poor. Drivers need to be aware in advance of the routes they will be taking and the potential dangers they may encounter. These can include obstacles en route or the sudden appearance of pedestrians. Other things they need to consider are varying overhead clearance heights, the condition and position of any ramps they will need to negotiate, and manouevering around or over tricky surfaces such as rail tracks. The rule of thumb is: the easiest route is always the best. Whenever possible, avoid potholes, uneven areas, wet or icy ground and tight corners.

ELOprotect can help here: our officially recognised mobile personnel protection system has been designed primarily for trucks working in narrow aisles. Directly mounted onto the vehicle, it uses smart laser technology to monitor the area of travel. If a danger is detected, the truck’s speed is automatically reduced or it can be brought to a complete standstill. And to ensure maximum safety for free roaming forklifts we developed ELOshield. This innovative radio based assistance system offers 360° protection for personnel.

No. 4: Load stability – keep it steady

Don’t risk a nasty surprise (or worse) of a wobbly load. Always check for stability and symmetry before loads are picked up. They should be positioned as far back on the forks as possible and secured and checked again before moving off. Also avoid sudden braking and steering manoeuvres when driving and never leave the cab when a load is raised.

Ramps can be particularly challenging. Loaded forklifts must be driven with the load pointed up the ramp and when descending a ramp with a load, always travel in reverse, again with the forks and load pointed up the grade.

No. 5: Know your limits!

Every driver needs to know the maximum capacity of the truck he or she is operating to avoid the risk of tipover (the rating plate on the truck will show the maximum weight that can be lifted to a given height and at a given load centre). Should a truck tip to the front or the side, the advice is to stay calm and remain in the cab. Keep in mind that a low centre of gravity is safest: the higher the load is carried on the forks, the more unstable it becomes.

No. 6: See and be seen

Make sure forward visibility is clear and unobstructed by transporting the load as close to the ground whenever possible. If sight is restricted it is recommended to travel in reverse, albeit slowly and carefully. The driver should always be on the lookout for any pedestrians who may be in the vicinity, particularly in areas with a high level of human traffic such as intersections, corners, near staircases and doorways. Use the horn to alert others to your presence. The functions incorporated into our radio based ELOshield product offer the best possible protection for those working in warehouses where there are a lot of areas of poor visibility.

No. 7: Slower = safer

Forklifts are not designed to travel at speed – even though some can reach 40 km/h. Always remember that slower = safer. The handling characteristics of a loaded truck are different to an unladen one. The vehicle responds more slowly and the load centre shifts forward. Never exceed walking speed when travelling with a load. The radar based ELOspeedsystem can help drivers to keep to designated limits: its sensors automatically reduce a truck’s speed when it transitions from outdoor operation to indoor and enables it to switch to a higher speed again once outside the warehouse. The assistance system ELOshield also features an automatic zone-based speed control as one of its features.

No. 8: Switch off when refuelling

Forklifts should only ever be refuelled in specially designated areas. The engine must be switched off, and no smoking is permitted. As is the case at any petrol station, any open flames or sparks constitute a grave risk.

Nr. 9: Calculate the risks of attachments

Attachments such as cages or work platform must be approved and no “home-made” or improvised devices must ever be used. Consider the effect any attachments may have on the truck’s handling, its capacity and its changed dimensions.

No. 10: Don’t rush off home

Everyone looks forward to the end of the working day. But before you leave, make sure you park your truck in a designated area, lower the forks to the ground and engage the handbrake. Remove keys and store them securely.

Do you want to improve safety and productivity in your warehouse?

We’re happy to help.

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