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Forklift Safety in The Warehouse

The forklift is a commonly used tool that helps people lift and move heavy loads with very little physical effort and excellent precision.  Using a forklift lessens the risk of injuries caused by lifting or carrying heavy items. For this reason, many companies employ forklifts and forklift operators to do this kind of labor. These machines are powerful, though, and there is always risk involved when they are used by people who have not been trained on operating them safely.

 

All forklifts fall under the category of ‘powered industrial trucks,’ but they are not all the same. Forklifts can be either battery powered or run on gas or diesel fuel. They also come in different sizes and have different functions according to the kind of work for which they will be used. Each type of lift is characterized by a class. Knowing which class of forklift you will work with should help you understand its safety features and potential hazards.

 

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The Safe-Tech Lift Truck Training Program is a two-part program consisting of a comprehensive in-class theory session followed by practical operator training and/or testing. Programs cover all aspects of lift truck safety and operation focusing on the equipment particular to your operation. (i.e. Counterbalanced Electric, Counterbalanced Propane (including propane cylinder exchange), Counterbalanced Stand-Up, Order Picker, Powered Pallet, Reach, Side Loader/Combi Lift, Swing Mast, Telehandler, Truck Mounted/Moffett, Tugger, Turret Stock Picker, Walkie Stacker, related components, battery changer and attachments).  Safe-Tech programs meet or exceed all relevant CSA Standards, applicable Federal/Provincial regulations and Ministry of Labour Guidelines.

 

On-site Lift Truck Training Programs are available at client’s location in both full or refresher format throughout Ontario including Belleville, Brampton, Burlington, Cambridge, Cobourg, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Markham, Mississauga, Niagara Falls, North Bay, Oakville, Peterborough, Sarnia, Toronto, Waterloo, and Windsor. Public/Off-site programs are available at several locations throughout the GTA.

 

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#1 - The Right Forklift For The Right Warehouse

Electric forklifts is the most appropriate to use indoor since they don't emit smoke and carbon monoxide. A forklift with good turning radius is also suited for operation in the warehouse; it can easily be maneuvered in narrow corridors and turned to avoid warehouse racking from being hit or damaged.

The other consideration you have to take is the height of the shelves and racks you have in the warehouse. This will determine if you will need a reach truck or an order picker for your warehouse operations.

Do you intent to operate the truck indoor, outdoor or both? The suited type of forklift to use outdoors is the combustion engine counterbalance. It packs more punch when it come to the power it generates, thus it can lift heavier loads. Electric ones are appropriate for indoor use but some of them are not rated for more lifting capacity, extended reach or lifting height.  The reach truck and order picker are more suited for "high-level" applications.

Determine how heavy your merchandise is and how high you need to stock it.  That will help you select the right kind of lift truck to handle your loads previous to buying a forklift. 

Talk to the manufacturer or their advisor to know which truck is suited in your workplace, they would gladly offer professional advice.  Selecting the wrong forklift is a safety concern so ensure you have the right one in your warehouse.

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#2 - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Review your company’s policy regarding warehouse attire and wearing proper PPEs.  Safety glasses and face shields may be required in accordance with company policy. If it so, you must wear these protection items at all times throughout your shift. This type of PPE is a good way to protect your eyes from foreign objects which are common in a warehouse setting.

Forklift operators may also be required to wear safety shoes with steel soles. Such shoes give them additional protection especially when operators are working with heavy objects ... manual lifting may be necessary at times when picking orders.

Hard hats are essential piece of safety attire. Just like safety shoes, it gives additional defense from falling objects. The upper torso especially the head is very vulnerable to falling objects. Wearing of hard hats is required if there’s a risk of falling objects in the warehouse.  It is the employer’s obligation to provide PPEs to their workers. 

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#3 - Speed Limits And Visibility While Travelling

The company must incorporate forklift speed limits in their safety policy.  The goal of setting a speed limit in the warehouse is to prevent accidents such as tip overs when the operator accelerates too fast and brakes too a suddenly.  Forklift operators need to have a controlled start and top when operating their equipment.

Placement of maximum speed traffic signs (including end-of-isle stop signs) in different locations of the warehouse is one of ways to mitigate the hazard of accidents. Everyone must be informed of the speed limit in the workplace and everyone are expected to adhere to it.

Determining of the speed limit in the workplace depends on several factors such as the type of forklift being driven in the warehouse, forklifts of different types vary in size and weight. These characteristics should be considered in determining the maximum speed limit in warehouse. The heavier the machine, the lower the speed it should be driven.

The another factor that could be taken into consideration in determining the speed limit is the construction of racking and shelves themselves. When they are constructed closed to each other, the space between in which the forklift can be driven is tight, there is not much room to safely accelerate the equipment.

Pedestrians, obstacles and visibility should also be taken into account as well. Obstacles such as ramps may be prevalent in the workplace. The higher the inclination of the ramp, the lesser the forklift should use it ... and never turn on a ramp.  Poor visibility and lighting also plays a role in the speed limit, the dimmer the workplace, the slower the speed should be recommended.

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#4 – Housekeeping With Safety In Mind

Warehouse housekeeping (when done regularly can have great benefits). With so much activity going on in a warehouse, there is a higher risk of hazards which can lead to increased accidents.  

To maintain a safe environment, cleanliness should be mandatory. Housekeeping is more than just sweeping the floor or taking out the trash at the end of the work shift.

Aisles and passageways should be cleared from any debris or obstructions. Remove pallets and other materials in passageways or in other areas such as pedestrian walkways. It can create trip hazards.  Clean up any any spills properly and/or report uneven surfaces of the to a supervisor.  

We never know when emergency situation will happen, exits and entrances should always cleared from any obstacles so that people and vehicles can easily pass through it.

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#5 - Safety Awareness For all Workers

One of the simplest ways to create safety awareness is communication including the posting the safety signs around the warehouse. Safety signs are great for informing workers of the possible hazards involved in a particular location or work process in the workplace.

The employer has a legal responsibility to keep their workers safe.  Workers need to understand the health and safety policies and procedures in the warehouse.  Safety training is the best way to correct any bad behavior(s).

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#6 - Regular Forklift Operator Training

Forklifts have long been essential to workers in the warehouse. Forklifts make the work much more productive and efficient. However, when driven by an untrained operator, forklifts can become a serious danger to the operator and others. Anyone who is tasked to handle the lift truck must be properly trained and certified first before operating it. Only those personnel who have been educated to drive it can handle the lift truck, if you haven’t received any training, do not touch it. Forklift operation in warehouse is no joke, it should be performed by someone who is competent to operate the machine.

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#7 - Regular Forklift Inspections

A forklift in excellent working condition is one of the best ways to prevent accidents and expensive repairs.  This can be done by regularly inspecting the lift truck prior to operation and performing their required annual inspections from a competent technician. 

Forklift operators also have the responsibility to keep the truck in good operational condition. If the machine isn't maintained properly, there is a high risk that it can cause serious accidents, injuries and even death during operation in the warehouse.

Forklift inspection can be done daily or before every shift, if it being utilized around the clock. The more frequent the inspection done, the better the forklift will perform.  You can check with your local supplier (and local Regulations) for their recommended inspections frequencies.

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Safe-Tech Support Team

31 Parr Blvd (Unit B), Bolton, ON, L7E 4E3

Toll free:           (416/877) 410-1855

Email:               info@safetechtraining.com

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