Forklifts, also called power industrial trucks, are necessary equipment for every well established manufacturing unit, warehouse, shipping industry or a plant where moving heavy objects of different shape and sizes is required. These machines are capable of doing this in a precise and efficient manner.
But they also pose a great risk if not properly handled. Every year about a 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift related accidents. Most common accident is forklift overturning which happens due to loading the machine over its maximum limit. Other accidents like one forklift crashing into other, forklift hitting a worker and falling of forklift from loading docks also happen.
The investigations of these accidents, conducted by NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health), show that they all happened to due human error. In fact, in some cases the workers and the employers did not have proper awareness about the safety measures issued by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association). Such things make proper training of forklift operationso important.
The complete training for operating a forklift consists of many different stages. All designed to teach every necessary thing there is to know. These stages are listed below.
- Training starts with a series of lectures, discussions and presentations, all of which teach about the basic controls, driving techniques and the safety measures. A written exam is also conducted to keep record of how much students learnt. Clearing this exam is mandatory.
- In the second stage, practical learning starts. The teachers demonstrate these techniques by operating a forklift. The students only get to watch during this step.
- Students get to operate a forklift themselves in this stage. They get hands on training on all the different machines most commonly used.
- Finally, the students get knowledge, skills and experience specific to the machines being used in the plants, industries or warehouses they are going to be working in.
After all these different stages, one becomes a certified forklift operation. To be employed for operating these machines, one needs both license and OSHA approved certification. So it is the responsibility of the employer to check both the things before hiring an operator. The Federal law states that an operator should be at least 18 years old, also that the operator should be properly trained and certified specifically for operation of the machine they are handling.
A properly trained operator can minimise the chances to an accident, not only by operating the machine carefully but also by making other workers and even employers aware of the safety measures. These measures include things like:
- All the forklifts should be inspected regularly
- An should take some time to examine the condition of his/her forklift before every shift
- If possible, define separate paths for forklifts and other workers
- Use of overhead dome mirrors to improve visibility at blind corners
- Hire an expert to conduct inspections of your unit to point out safety violations and suggest improvements
- Put horns and flash lights on forklifts so the operator can warn workers and other operators in the area
- Hire a mechanic, specialising in forklifts to visit the plant at regular intervals and service all the forklifts
- Operator, as well as every worker working around a forklift, should have complete knowledge of the specifications provided by the manufacturer, like maximum weight the machine can handle, etc
If only the trained, certified, licensed and qualified forklift operation are hired and all the safety measures are kept in mind, chances of an accident minimise to a great extent.