There are inherent risks you face if you're a warehouse worker. Accidents aren't common, but they do occur. For every 100 full-time workers employed in a warehouse, the number of work-related accidents or illnesses reported to the BLS in 2014 was 5.2. If you work in a warehouse as a forklift operator, here are four simple steps you can take to keep your coworkers and yourself from being hurt by the material handling equipment you drive.
Take Your Forklift for a Test Drive
Before you start picking up and transporting pallets with your forklift, take it for a quick spin to make sure everything's working properly. You should do this before each shift, to make sure it didn't break down while you weren't working.
A few tests you can do include the following:
- go forwards and backwards a little to check the gears
- try turning both left and right to check the steering
- come to a stop to check the brakes
- raise the arms and bring them back down them to check for smooth lifting and lowering
While performing these tests, you should also make sure there aren't any warning lights that remain on. If the forklift fails any of these tests or there are warning lights on, ask your warehouse's material handling equipment manager to have the lift serviced. You shouldn't use it until it's fixed.
Make Sure Your Path is Clear
You should also check where you'll be driving to make sure your pathway is clear. It should be both free of visual obstructions that would prevent you from seeing where you're going and from physical obstacles that would block the forklift from moving forward.
Clearing away any obstructions or obstacles driving will reduce the chances that you hit someone. Taking care of this before you start will ensure you don't have to get down from the forklift while driving to move something.
Show Up On Time
Showing up to work on time is expected in most professions, but being on time is especially important when working in a warehouse with forklift. If you're late, you'll be pressed for time. After all, orders won't wait just because you showed up tardy. Incoming orders still need to be put away, and outgoing ones must still be shipped. If you show up late, you'll be tempted to rush to meet your warehouse's deadlines. Rushing can lead to cutting corners and unsafe operation of the forklift.
By showing up when you're supposed to, you'll ensure that you have time throughout your shift to do the work assigned to you without rushing. Because you'll have enough time, you'll be able to
- operate the forklift at safe speeds, always observing any speed limits posted in the warehouse
- slow down when taking corners
- accelerate and decelerate gradually when carrying large or heavy loads
- double-check that your loads are stable and properly secured
Know Your Forklift's Maximum Load
All forklifts have a maximum load, which should never be exceeded. If it is, the forklift can tip forwards. This may cause the forklift to tip forwards just slightly so that the rear wheels come off the ground, which makes it impossible to properly drive the forklift. Exceeding the maximum load can also cause a forklift to pitch far enough forwards that it falls over.
You can find your forklift's maximum load in the owner's manual, which your warehouse's material handling equipment manager should have. Look up the maximum load if you don't know it, and never carry a load heavier than that. If a load is heavier, split it into two loads.
As a forklift driver in a warehouse, you have a lot of responsibility. Take these simple steps to keep the people around you safe.