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5 Essential Elements of Forklift Safety

Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicate that approximately 34,900 forklift injuries occur every year. A number of factors contribute to accidents, including equipment and operator error. To reduce the risk of injury, it is crucial that operators understand the dangers asociated with improper operation of a forklift.

In honor of National Forklift Safety Day on June 12, KION North America urges facility managers to stress the importance of safe forklift operation throughout their facilities. Here are five essential elements of forklift safety that your company must put into practice.

Complete the required training

Only employees who have received proper training and certification can legally operate a forklift. Operators who fail to complete the necessary training have an increased risk of injury to themselves and those around them. Allowing an employee without the proper certification to handle a forklift can result in tens of thousands of dollars in fines for the employer.

OSHA’s training program entails practical training and a workplace performance evaluation. Additionally, OSHA requires that operators are evaluated every three years. An operator must meet OSHA’s training course requirements to continue operating a forklift.

Perform regular checkups

To maximize forklift safety, operators should perform routine inspections of their equipment. Items to check include seat belts, tires, lights, brakes, backup alarms, fluid levels and the forks. Any issues with equipment should be reported to a supervisor, and the forklift should immediately be removed from service.

Stay aware of surroundings

While operating the equipment, operators should be aware of their surroundings as well as worksite rules and guidelines. Carefully observe signs for maximum permitted floor loadings and clearance heights. Operators should also pay attention to the height of the load when entering and exiting the warehouse.

In regards to pedestrians, it’s important that operators slow down when approaching heavily-populated areas, such as intersections, corners, and stairways.

Maintain load stability

One of the leading causes of forklift-related injuries is tip-over, which can occur when a forklift carries an unstable load. Operators should ensure loads are completely balanced and secured on the forks before operating to prevent tip-overs.

Operators should also keep the load low to the ground to increase safety. When traveling on ramps and grades, the load should point up the incline regardless of the direction of travel.

Store forklifts properly

After a shift has ended, it’s important for each operator to park the forklift in its designated, authorized area. The forks should be fully lowered to the ground, and the parking brake should be applied. Finally, the forklift should be turned off, and the key should be removed from the ignition and stored in the proper place.

Proper operation of forklifts and other material handling equipment is essential to the safety of your warehouse. Let National Forklift Safety Day serve as a reminder to practice these and other elements of forklift safety year-round.

At KION North America, warehouse safety is a top priority. That’s why we provide facility managers with outstanding forklift models leading the way in efficiency and safety. Contact your local authorized dealer today to find the best forklift for your material handling needs.

Avoiding Common Forklift Accidents

Every year, thousands of people are injured in accidents involving forklifts, with forklift accidents being one of the most common incidents in the warehouse. Common incidents include forklift overturn, workers being struck by a lift, and falls from a forklift. These incidents occur despite the fact that most forklift accidents are avoidable.

The warehouse can be a hazardous place, but there are ways to reduce the risk of forklift accidents occurring. The following are some of the most common causes of forklift accidents, with a few tips for avoiding them.

Improper or Insufficient Training

A driver who is not properly trained to operate a forklift is an extreme hazard in the workplace. They may not know how to operate the various mechanisms of the lift, or are unable to respond to the changing conditions of the workplace. Without proper training, forklift operators put themselves and their fellow workers in danger.

The best way to ensure safe forklift operation is to thoroughly and properly train drivers, both in general forklift knowledge as well as in particulars of the warehouse or work environment.

Faulty Equipment

Faulty equipment is another common cause of forklift accidents. Conducting preliminary checks is the best way to reduce the risk of equipment failing on you while operating a forklift. While there is no way to ensure that a forklift will not fail while you are operating it, conducting these checks can alert you to potential issues and allow you to avoid preventable incidents and injuries.

Speeding

Speeding while driving a forklift is a reckless behavior that can result in serious injury in the event of an accident. Speeding on a forklift affects the operator’s reaction time, making it more likely an accident will occur if something falls in front of the lift or a person darts out into the driver’s path. OSHA recommends that forklift operators do not exceed 5 miles per hour.

This is another instance where proper training can help avoid an accident or injury. Operators with sufficient training understand the risks associated with the improper use of a forklift, and follow the protocols and procedures to avoid such risks. Managers should also be on the lookout to ensure that drivers are not speeding.

Collisions With Pedestrians and Other Vehicles

Collisions between forklifts and pedestrians or other vehicles are a common cause of injury in the warehouse. Not only can these accidents result in injury to team members, but they can also damage equipment, costing the warehouse time and money for repairs.

The key to avoiding collisions in the warehouse is communication. When workers have an open line of communication, they can alert one another to their whereabouts as well as potential problems or hazards. Pedestrians and workers can also wear bright clothing to draw the forklift operator’s attention.

Poor Floor Design or Layout

The layout of a warehouse can greatly affect workers’ ability to work safely and efficiently in the space. From narrow aisles and sharp turns to poor lighting and marking, a poor layout can make it extremely difficult for forklifts to maneuver through the warehouse. The workplace may even be inadvertently designed in a way that increases the risk of collisions and tip over.

A good floor design is clean and well-lit, has maneuverable, uncluttered aisles, as well as proper floor marking and warning signs. The warehouse floor should not be an obstacle course for forklift operators to navigate.

While the warehouse floor can be ripe with potential hazards to forklift operators and other workers, many common forklift accidents are avoidable. When drivers are sufficiently trained, equipment is checked, and the warehouse floor is properly designed, the risk of accidents and injuries occurring is greatly reduced. By following our tips for avoiding common forklift accidents, your warehouse can operate safely and efficiently.

6 Tips for Safely Operating a Forklift Outdoors

Forklifts are useful not only on the warehouse floor, but can also be useful to lift and handle heavy loads and lifting outdoors. Forklifts may be used outdoors on construction sites, docks and container yards, or lumberyards, lifting heavy materials even on the roughest terrain.

While outdoor forklifts are extremely useful, operating a forklift outdoors and on rough terrain presents certain challenges that operating a forklift indoors does not. Here are a few tips to help you minimize risk and safely operate a forklift outdoors.

Stay Alert

Inside or out, it is extremely important to stay focused while operating a forklift. Operators should be constantly checking their surroundings, keeping an eye out for other workers or unexpected surprises. In an outdoor environment, there are even more potential hazards and surprises, meaning you should stay particularly alert to your surroundings. You may encounter wildlife, stray branches, rocks and more when using a forklift outdoors, and need to be prepared in the event that you do.

Check Fluids and Tires

Before stepping foot on the forklift, you should do preliminary checks such as checking tires and fluids. Overinflated tires may explode, and rough terrain filled with rocks and other hazards increases the chances of an incident occurring. On the other hand, under inflated tires may go flat, and the outdoor terrain can make it more difficult to conduct the necessary repairs.

Check fluid levels to ensure that your lift is at top performance. With fluids like oil and antifreeze at the proper levels, you’re more likely to avoid overheating the engine in the summer and freezing it in the winter.

Mind the Terrain

In a warehouse, the terrain does not change from a smooth operating floor. Outdoors, however, it’s a different story. You may be on smooth asphalt one moment, and a rough gravel road the next. The terrain may be even and flat before suddenly becoming uneven or hilly.

It’s important for operators to be mindful of the changing terrain, and prepare to make the necessary adjustments. The driver should practice operating a forklift on the various terrains they expect to encounter, such as dirt or gravel.

Pay Attention to the Weather

Weather can greatly influence the safety of forklift operation outdoors, presenting new challenges for the operator as the terrain changes and the forklift itself is affected. It is essential that forklift operators working outdoors pay attention to the weather, understanding how the conditions will impact their ability to safely operate the lift.

Check the weather forecast before beginning operation, and consider postponing operations in the event of inclement weather. Also be mindful of seasonal weather issues, such as snow or ice in the winter and heat in the summer. Seasonal factors can impact the terrain, the forklift, as well as the driver’s ability to operate.

Communicate

In a collaborative environment like a warehouse or construction site, communication is key to safe and efficient operations. Even if workers are not working on the same project, it is essential that forklift operators are in communication with their fellow workers, alerting one another to changing conditions and any issues that arise.

Forklifts are powerful, heavy pieces of machinery, and can cause great harm to people if an accident occurs. Communication reduces the risk of such incidents, as an operator can alert other workers as to the lift’s objectives and whereabouts.

Even the most experienced forklift operators face unexpected challenges outdoors and on rough terrain. By following these tips, operators can greatly reduce the risk of an incident occurring, promoting the safety and efficiency of the construction site, dockyard, or other outdoor environment.

Electrical Safety in the Warehouse

Following safety guidelines is one of the most important aspects of properly running a warehouse. OSHA has clear guidelines in place and a checklist that warehouses can use to ensure the warehouse is running as safely as possible. When managers and employees fail to comply with safety guidelines, conditions in the warehouse can become hazardous, leading to potential injury and even worse.

Electrical safety is an especially important part of the overall safety of the warehouse. The factory floor is full of electrical tools and cords that can pose a serious hazard when not dealt with safely. Here’s what you need to know about electrical safety in the warehouse.

One of the most important things is to make sure that all electronic equipment is properly grounded. Doing so will decrease the likelihood of someone being shocked. But be careful of power cords- make sure they are not blocking aisles or in workers’ path. Falls are one of the most common workplace injuries, and these cords lying around can increase the chance of a fall.

You also need to make sure equipment is in good condition. Cords should not have any exposed fraying wire. Outlets should also be in prime condition, with no exposed wiring or other damage. When it comes to electrical tools, regularly check that they are working properly, conducting preliminary checks and appropriate tests when necessary.

Be sure to keep all electrical equipment away from any type of wetness, and always make sure that power tools are completely powered down when they are cleaned or serviced. The area surrounding electrical cords and equipment should be free of any potentially hazardous materials or conductors, such as water or metal.

And as always, training is an extremely important part of warehouse safety. Electrical safety training should be incorporated into your employees’ training. This may include teaching proper use of tools, alerting workers to the possible hazards that come with working with electrical equipment, and showing them where circuit breakers and electrical panels are located. Workers should never handle electrical equipment until they have received training, as inexperienced or untrained individuals may not be aware of the risks associated with using such tools. Employees working around electrical tools should also be trained in CPR in case of emergency.

These tips are a starting point when it comes to creating a safe and hazard-free warehouse. And while electrical safety is extremely important, warehouse safety includes so much more than just that. If you want to know more about electrical safety in the warehouse, check out OSHA’s checklist.

How to Get Your Forklift Operator Certification

Law requires that employers provide their employees with a safe workplace, and that includes hiring workers that are trained and certified in their field of work, such as operating a forklift. In fact, operating a forklift without the proper training and certification is in violation of federal law. Forklifts are vital tool in the warehouse. But this powerful tool must be handled safely, and only by those who have received proper training and earned their forklift operator certification. Here’s how to get your forklift operator certification.

Rules and regulations for forklift operator certification are stipulated by OSHA. Your company should provide an instructor who offers an OSHA-compliant course. If you decide to conduct the training yourself, you must complete an authorized OSHA trainer course either in the field of construction industry or general industry.

Once training begins, workers must complete two phases. The first phase involves classroom or online instruction, followed by a forklift test. New operators must receive classroom training for 8 hours, experienced operators for 4. Online courses are completed at the individual’s own pace. This phase of training focuses on health and safety information the operator needs to know along with OSHA regulations and the penalties related to them.

After online or classroom training, operators are evaluated by completing an OSHA forklift certification exam. The operator then moves onto the second phase of certification, which involves hands-on training. The training may include completing obstacle courses and utilizing the different controls, ultimately training the operator to work in an equipment and environment-specific setting. Certification requires minimum training of 8 hours of high lifts and 4 hours of low lifts.

After completing the classroom phase, passing the certification exam, and demonstrating competent hands-on skill, the forklift operator may be awarded with his or her certification. The operator must carry their certification card whenever operating a lift, which is valid for three years. After three years, the driver’s performance must be evaluated. Refresher training is only required following an incident or if the driver is found to be operating the forklift unsafely.

Forklifts are powerful tools that can be dangerous when used improperly or operated by someone without training. Not only is having your forklift operator certification required by federal law, it is also essential to the safety and efficiency of the warehouse environment.

Tips for Handling Hazardous Materials

It’s no secret that safety should be a top priority in any warehouse. But in warehouses that handle hazardous materials, safety should be an even greater concern for management as well as employees. Hazardous materials include raw materials and finished products, and can be quite dangerous when handled improperly.

These materials are capable of producing harmful effects like fire or a sudden release of pressure that could cause an explosion, or health effects, from burns to chronic effects and organ damage. Additionally, hazardous materials can have harmful effects on the environment. It is important to handle these materials with the utmost caution in order to run a safe and successful warehouse. Here are some tips for handling hazardous materials.

Firstly, every warehouse worker needs to familiarize themselves and follow federal and state regulations concerning proper handling and disposal of materials. These organizations set regulations that ensure hazardous materials are handled safely and without danger to individuals or the environment.

When handling hazardous materials, safe transportation is extremely important. Be vigilant of your surroundings and travel at safe speeds. Faster driving can increase the likelihood for forklift or machine turnover or collision, which hazardous materials could make even more dangerous.

Proper labeling and storage is also an important part of safe material handling, as different materials have different effects and require specific handling. Certain materials also need to be stored separately from others, and storage areas should be dry, cool, and well-ventilated. If you see any damaged containers, mislabeled products, or improperly stored items, report them immediately.

The real key to safe handling of hazardous materials is proper training. Training employees to know about hazardous materials, from how they can be dangerous to avoiding incidents as well as how to respond to emergencies is the surest way to operate a safe warehouse.

These tips are just the foundation for proper handling of hazardous materials. Through familiarization with federal and state regulations as well as the specifics for the materials your warehouse manages, and of course with proper training, your warehouse can safely and efficiently handle hazardous materials. For more tips, check out our 2017 Warehouse Safety Checklist.

Forklift Maintenance Checklist

Unsafe forklift operations are one of the biggest safety hazards in warehouses. Whether due to improper training or lack of maintenance, forklifts can cause damage, injury, or even death when used improperly. That’s why regular maintenance and operational checks of forklifts are extremely important. OSHA requires that forklifts be inspected daily. In order to create a safe warehouse, make sure you look for these issues when conducting a pre-operational inspection:

Firstly, perform visual checks

  • Tire condition and pressure
  • Visible spills or leaks, including underneath the forklift and near hoses
  • Obvious signs of damage, such as cracks or other visible defects
  • Condition of gauges
  • Safety decals and nameplates are visible and legible
  • Examine the forks for signs of damage and appropriate height and thickness
  • For electric forklifts, there are no exposed or fraying wires

Next, conduct physical checks

  • Brakes and steering controls are operating properly
  • Safety devices like seat belt and horn are functional
  • Other operations and controls are working

And lastly, check liquid levels

  • Fuel
  • Brake fluid
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Engine oil coolant

In addition to pre-operational checks, forklifts should undergo further inspection and maintenance based on days, months, or hours of operation. The following are the best practices for conducting more comprehensive maintenance checks:

Conduct forklift maintenance or service in safe conditions

  • Area of service is clean and free of clutter
  • Forklift engine is off and battery disconnected
  • Emergency brakes are set and wheels are blocked

After making sure the area is clean, begin servicing the vehicle

  • Change engine oil based on manufacturer’s specifications
  • Replace air filters
  • Examine brakes and replace brake fluid
  • Examine the cooling system, checking radiator hoses and clamps
  • Replace tires if damaged
  • Inspect chains and other parts for rust, damage, or misalignment

Protect your warehouse and employees by following these simple steps for forklift maintenance. This checklist is just a starting point for conducting appropriate forklift maintenance inspections. Read the manufacturer’s manual, look at OSHA’s guidelines, and contact professionals when servicing your forklift in order to prevent damage and injuries. In doing so, your warehouse can enjoy a safe and productive year in 2017.

2017 Warehouse Safety Checklist

The new year is upon us, which means a chance to start fresh when it comes to proper warehouse safety practices. Creating a safe warehouse is one of the keys to running an efficient and productive operation. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help. Use these warehouse safety tips to make 2017 a safe and productive year in the warehouse.

Training

Perhaps the most important aspect of warehouse safety is proper training. Forklift operators should be properly trained for the specific vehicle they will be using. Supervisors should regularly monitor and assess operators and provide refresher training if they witness any issues.

Training does not only apply to forklift operators, but the entire staff of a warehouse. Managers should outline the safety standards for the warehouse as a whole, fostering an environment that puts safety above all else.

Training is not a one-and-done system. Regular safety checks and training sessions should be performed throughout the year. As a warehouse grows, evolves, and acquires new equipment or systems, so should its training methods.

Maintenance

Safe maintenance applies to a number of areas in the warehouse. Firstly, there’s machinery. All forklifts and trucks should receive routine maintenance and service, as well as pre-checks before each use. If any issues are found, do not use the machine and have it serviced as quickly as possible.

Maintenance also applies to maintaining a clean, organized environment. Warehouse aisles should be clear of any clutter, debris, or spills to allow easy access and maneuvering for both employees and forklifts.

Operations

Safe operations in the warehouse depend in many ways on proper training. Forklift operators and employees working in fields that require special training should only operate the systems or models they have been trained to use.

Safe operations also depend on signage and the appropriate safety measures in place. Emergency exits and routes are clearly marked, stairs are accompanied by hand railings, areas where employees could fall more than four feet are roped off, and employees use the necessary safety equipment, such as hard hats, gloves, and protective eyewear footwear.

Supervision

The final key to creating a safe warehouse is competent, regular supervision. Managers and supervisors are responsible for catching and remedying any unsafe practices employees may be performing, ensuring that only the best practices are being used throughout the warehouse. And of course, supervisors should be trained and familiar with all of the safety practices put in place in the warehouse.

Warehouse safety is about informing, educating, and communicating. These steps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to warehouse safety. OSHA provides detailed checklists for a range of warehouse safety measures, which can be found here. Follow these tips to get the ball rolling on warehouse safety for the new year.

Proper Forklift Weight Distribution

The forklift is a powerful industrial tool that allows heavy items to be moved with ease and prevents various injuries from personal lifting. However, it is essential that operators are properly trained to operate a forklift and understand the factors that affect the machine’s stability.

An understanding of load capacity and weight distribution is especially important when operating a forklift. The load capacity represents the amount of weight a forklift can safely lift and maneuver. Weight distribution refers not only to the weight of the load, but also the weight of the forklift itself. An empty forklift has most of its weight in the rear, but when a load is placed on the lift, the weight distribution moves forward.

Load Center

The load center is the horizontal distance between the face of the forks and the center of gravity of the load. Forklifts are designed to carry a capacity load at a standard load center, typically 24 inches, to evenly distribute the weight of the load and keep the lift stable.

 

Proper Forklift Weight Distribution

Photo credit: www.osha.gov

This center is determined as if the load being carried is a perfectly shaped cube whose center of gravity is exactly in the center of that cube, so when lifting irregularly shaped loads, the capacity may be reduced.

The load center should be as close to the forklift’s wheels as possible. Increasing the distance between the load center and the wheels can result in tipover. Additionally, going over a forklift’s weight capacity can cause the weight distribution to move too far forward and result in tipover, as well as other hazards like loss of steering control or falling load.

Load Placement

When loading items, the heaviest weight should be loaded as close to the forklift’s masts as possible. Also be sure to load rectangular boxes widthwise rather than lengthwise to keep the load center from shifting forward and potentially causing tipover, as seen in the figure above.

Understanding these concepts is essential to safely operating a forklift, but load capacity and weight distribution are not the only factors that affect a lift’s stability. Visit OSHA’s e-tools for more details about forklift stability, balance, and how to estimate a safe load capacity.

Keeping a Forklift from Tipping

One of, if not the biggest threat behind improperly handling a forklift, is tip over. If a load is placed incorrectly or a driver takes too sharp of a turn, the forklift is likely to tip over and could result in injury. In fact, according to Fatalities and Catastrophes from OSHA, six workers were killed by a tipped forklift between January and September of 2014. While this information is concerning, tip over is avoidable. By remembering a few simple steps, you can decrease your chances of tip over and create a safer working environment.

Pay attention to the load center

Tip over often occurs when a load is not properly placed according to the lift’s center of gravity. Maintaining the load’s center of gravity is essential in avoiding forklift tip over. Every lift has a specified load center- its center of gravity- and maximum load capacity. If you abide by the limits of the load center and capacity, you are much less likely to tip a forklift.

However, depending on the size of the load and its distance from the tires, the load center changes. For instance, your lift may be able to handle a 3,000-lb load placed close to the tires. But if you move the load forward, your chances of tipping increase. The closer the load is to the front tires, the less likely you are to tip.

Place the load properly

Keeping the load closer to the tires will help keep your forklift from tipping forwards, but forklifts can also tip onto their sides. Because forklifts have more length than width, it is actually relatively easy for the lift to tip to the side when a load is placed improperly. When driving, loads typically shift, and if the load is wider than the forklift, tipping becomes a bigger threat. This brings us to the third and final step for avoiding forklift tipping.

Drive carefully

Forklifts often don’t have the best turning radius, so it’s important to go slowly around sharp turns when carrying a load. Even if the load is perfectly placed, a sharp turn can shift a load and throw it from its center of gravity, causing the lift to tip. 

By following these steps during the loading and operation of a forklift, your chances of tip over are much less likely. Unfortunately, accidents can happen despite the best laid plans and precautions, so always be sure to wear a seatbelt when operating a forklift.