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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.

The Essential Forklift Safety Checklist

Every year, forklifts are involved in 11% of accidents and are responsible for 100,000 injuries worldwide according to OSHA Safety Management. Forklift safety is essential for protecting the health and well-being of your employees. Accidents also result in costly lawsuits that are damaging to your brand’s reputation. Here are five tips that you should always include in your routine safety checks.

Check protective gear

Although the specific standards for safety equipment may vary slightly depending on your employer, protective hard hats, glasses, and reflective clothing will likely be a part of your uniform. You should always refer to the official employee dress code since safety equipment such as face shields or gloves may also be part of the requirements.

Refer to safety guides

The safety guidebook for forklift use and the operator’s manual should always be accessible to employees. Managers should also be available to answer any questions regarding safety. Make sure that employees are up-to-date on the latest forklift technology and safety requirements. Although certification programs are available online for forklift operation, managers should also include a job-specific safety course for all new and existing employees.

Measure fluid levels and tire pressure

It is important to ensure that forklifts have enough battery fluid, water, and hydraulic fluid to operate safely at all times. When forklifts are driven in an industrial environment, there is also a risk of punctured tires. Since daily wear and tear can cause tires to deflate, measure the tire pressure and watch out for any slashes or nails.

Perform a visual inspection

Next, carefully look over the entire forklift for any cracks, leaks, or defects. If anything seems amiss, call someone to repair it. Ignoring a leak and operating the forklift isn’t worth the risk of injury to an employee. Don’t forget to check the overhead guard, lift chains and rollers, forks, mast assembly, and hydraulic cylinders at the start of each day. Finally, check the load-handling attachments to make sure they aren’t loose.

Evaluate safety equipment

After the visual inspection, you’ll want to examine the safety features in the forklift. Seatbelts should fasten securely and be free of any tears or fraying. You’ll also want to test the brakes, steering, horn, and front, tail, and brake lights. Any problems with the safety equipment could put the lives of your employees at risk.

At KION North America, we understand how important safety is to your operations. Discover how our lines of Linde and Baoli forklifts are the leading brands in safety and technology.

Is It Time to Replace Your Forks?

Forklifts are an invaluable tool in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Without them, most operations could not continue. And the most important part of a forklift is the forks themselves, which carry the lift’s load.

When a forklift’s forks are worn, bent, broken, or damaged, it not only affects the lift’s ability to function properly, but can also put your product and the personal safety of your employees at risk. To ensure that your forklift is in top working condition, the lift’s forks should be inspected regularly and replaced if any damage is found.

Conduct the following inspections to determine if it is time to replace your lift’s forks:

Wear

First, check the forks for normal wear. The thickness of the forks wears down over time as the lift carries loads. You can use a special fork caliper tool to measure the forks for wear. If the wear reduces by 10% or more of the original thickness, it is time to replace the forks.

Surface cracks

Inspect the top and bottom of the forks for cracks. Cracks occur over time with normal operation, or more frequently if the forklift carries a load beyond its load capacity. If there are any cracks, the forks need to be replaced.

Make sure to carefully check the areas where the area where the forks attach to the lift truck, as cracks often develop there.

Evenness of the forks

If you operate a lift with uneven forks, you run the risk of damaging the load or even tipping the forklift. Carefully inspect the forks to make sure they are even. The difference in the height of each fork tip should not exceed 3% of the length of the blade.

Straightness of the blade and shank

If the blade or shank of the forklift has been distorted or bent, they need to be replaced. The blade refers to the blades that the load sits on. The shank is the vertical component of the forks that attach to the carriage.

If the straightness deviates from 0.5% of the length of the blade, or 0.5% of the height of the shank, the forks must be repaired or replaced.

Fork angle

In addition to the checking that the blade and shank are straight, you should also check the fork angle where the blade and shank meet. If the angle exceeds 3° from the original angle, the forks should not return to service.

If any of the above do not fit the specifications for your particular forklift, it is time to replace the lift’s forks. General forklift inspections should be performed before every use, while federal law mandates that forks are inspected by trained personnel once a year.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that you get the most life possible out of your lift’s forks. Never push your lift beyond its limits. Pay attention to load capacity, and do not carry loads that extend too far out on the forks. Additionally, you should only use forklifts for their intended purpose.

While you can replace forks to get more life out of your lift, forklifts do not last forever. But by performing the inspections above and conducting the appropriate repairs or replacements, you can ensure optimal performance for your forklift.

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.

Ergonomics and Warehouse Safety

A warehouse can pose many health and risk factors to its workers if the right safety procedures and standards are not in place. Ergonomics is the practice of designing or refining elements of the workplace to optimize efficiency while decreasing risks to workers health and well-being. In the material handling world, ergonomics is extremely important for keeping workers safe and free of injury.

While many aspects of the warehouse environment fall under worker safety, from forklift safety to proper training, ergonomics refers to those injuries to the musculoskeletal system, often sustained from forceful exertion, sustained awkward postures, repetitive movement and more. When lifting and handling heavy materials in the warehouse, these factors can lead to serious injury and even chronic conditions or disability. Not only do such injuries decrease warehouse efficiency, but they can also cost the organization a substantial amount in worker’s compensation and disability insurance.

It is impossible to remove ergonomic risk factors from the warehouse entirely, but there are ways to reduce these factors and hopefully prevent serious injuries. Here are a few tips for creating a safe ergonomic environment in the warehouse.

One great way to spot ergonomic risks is to simply walk through the warehouse and observe workers as they perform their daily tasks. Take care to notice any awkward or strained positions, or perhaps note that certain tasks are causing employees considerable discomfort. If you discover ergonomic risks, the next step is to work to control and reduce those risks.

OSHA recommends three areas of control for ergonomic hazards: engineering controls, administrative and work practice controls, and personal protective equipment. Engineering controls refers to physical change in the working environment. This may include installing a mechanical device to help with heavy lifting or reducing the weight of a certain load to prevent overexertion. Administrative and work practice controls involves redesigning warehouse processes and procedures. Management may implement more breaks or require multiple people to lift loads over a certain weight. Finally, workers must be equipped with the proper personal protection to reduce risk. From padding to goggles and thermal gloves, administration and management need to require the appropriate protective equipment.

Finally, an extremely important aspect of ergonomic safety in the warehouse is to listen to your employees. If a worker comes to you expressing concerns about conditions or discomfort performing a certain task, do not write them off. Listen and discuss these issues with your workers, and try to find ways to solve any existing problems or to ease discomfort. The more comfortable and safe workers are, the more productive the warehouse will be.

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.

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.

Tips for Properly Cleaning a Forklift

Forklifts make life in the warehouse easier in so many ways. In order for forklifts to keep doing their job, it’s important to keep these machines well-maintained, which includes keeping them clean. Proper maintenance and cleaning will also help prolong a forklift’s lifespan. Here are a few tips for properly cleaning a forklift.

Use a pressure washer

Soap and water just won’t cut it; a pressure washer is the only way to completely clean a forklift. Using a pressure washer is also safer than soap and water, as you can keep a safe distance from the machine. And in environments where forklifts come into contact with potentially hazardous chemicals, mixing these chemicals with soap could be dangerous.

Get rid of loose dirt and debris first

Before putting the pressure washer to use, get rid of any loose dirt, debris, and rust that can be removed with a broom or duster. Doing so will help get the forklift as clean as possible before you pressure wash the vehicle. Additionally, dirt, dust, and rust can hurt the performance of a forklift if left to build up over time.

Start at the top

When you begin cleaning, start at the top of the forklift. Since grime and dirt will flow downward, starting at the top and working your way towards the bottom of the forklift will prevent you from dirtying an already clean area. That way, you create a much more efficient cleaning process

Make sure it’s dry

While forklifts are durable, not every part and component is waterproof. Once you have finished cleaning a forklift, leave time for it to dry completely. Make sure that before its next use, every component is dry and there is no excess water hiding in hard to see or reach areas.

Wear protective equipment

Last but not least, practice safety first, even when simply cleaning your forklift. A pressure washer keeps distance between you and the forklift while cleaning, but that does not mean injuries cannot happen. At the very least, wear protective goggles, boots, and gloves to protect some of the most vulnerable areas.

Letting your forklift build up dirt and grime will not only harm its performance, but the performance of your warehouse operation as a whole. Save time, energy, and money by properly cleaning and maintaining one of your most essential warehouse assets.

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.