Tips to Keep Your Workplace Safe

Forklifts are incredibly useful pieces of equipment, used throughout many industries to enhance productivity, speed up processes and protect the health and safety of employees. But they can also be extremely dangerous, with thousands of forklift accidents every year resulting in sometimes serious injuries, and usually caused by improper and unsafe operation or lack of training for the operatives. Below are a few tips that will help you keep your workplace safe and ensure you get the most from your equipment and staff.

1. Provide Proper Training

This is not just a sensible choice, but a legal obligation. As an employer you must ensure that your team are given all the training they need to safely and legally operate a forklift and keep themselves, their workmates and visitors to your site safe and protected from harm. 

2. Provide Safe Work Wear Your operators should have access to personal protective clothing:

  • A hard hat – a must for any construction environment, development or warehousing facility
  • Safety shoes – can be the most simple way to avoid potentially disabling accidents
  • Hi-Vis jackets – essential for everyone present on site – not just the operatives
  • Tight fitting clothing – loose clothing, sleeves or trouser legs, can easily become trapped in machinery

 3. Regular Safety Inspections

During their training, your employees will be taught the importance of pre-use safety checks, and how to properly examine the forklift before it is used – every time. Some of the things to inspect before each use include:

  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Controls
  • Warning devices
  • Mast
  • Tyres

Any problems or faults uncovered, or any signs of excessive wear and tear that become evident, should mean the vehicle is immediately taken out of action until they are resolved. All repairs should be carried out by a fully trained and qualified mechanic or engineer. All inspections, results and action should be recorded to evidence your commitment to health and safety.

4. Starting a forklift

As with any vehicle, there are certain things to check before you start the engine that you will not be able to adjust once the vehicle is in motion:

  • Mirrors should be positioned to give the individual operator a clear view of everything around them
  • The seat and controls will need adjusting for each operative to ensure they are within easy and safe reach
  • The operative should be properly and comfortably seated for the journey, and have the seatbelt fastened

 5. Be aware of your surroundings 

You should always operate your forklift in line with any site rules, speed limits and safety guidelines, which in most places involves:

  • Only driving on designated roads or paths
  • Keeping below a 10 miles per hour speed limit
  • Check signs for low ceilings or doorways, give ways, loading bays & exclusion zones
  • Know where the edges of ramps, bays and docks are, so you can safely avoid them.

 6. Avoiding Hazards

It’s important that you know the area you will be driving in well, as an unseen bump in the road can cause the vehicle to tip and result in injuries to yourself and others, as well as damage to the vehicle.

  • Be aware of lumps, bumps, slippery ground and uneven surfaces
  • Avoid any loose materials, objects or flooring
  • Slow for corners and doorways, especially if your visibility is limited
  • Use your horn to warn pedestrians of your approach
  • Stay a safe distance from other operatives and vehicles
  • Maintain a safe stopping distance at all times

 7. Safe loading procedures 

One of the biggest causes of forklift accidents is unsafe loads. Unevenly balanced, unsecured, too heavy or too high loads can cause vehicles to tip up, resulting in accidents that could have been avoided with proper care. The rules are simple:

  • The load should be tilted slightly back, towards the vehicle
  • The forks should sit low whilst the vehicle is moving
  • Loads should be correctly stacked and spread across both forks
  • Use pallets or skid to balance the load
  • Check for any overhead obstacles before stacking upwards
  • Use ropes, straps and bindings to properly secure loads
  • Do not overload the forklift
  • Do not push a load with the forks
  • Never exceed the maximum capacity of your forklift or attachments
  • Always check the load carefully before moving off

 8. Maintain good visibility

Another contributing factor in many accidents is not being able to see the path ahead clearly – this not only represents a danger to the driver, but any pedestrians who may not see the forklift approach. Maintaining a clear view on your journey and load is key to upholding safety.

  • Position the load so you can see clearly where you are going keeping it as low as possible
  • If necessary, operate the forklift in reverse
  • Ensure you can see the load clearly, to check it remains secure
  • If the weather is bad, and effective your ability to see clearly, stop driving
  • If necessary, get a lookout to assist you and keep them in your sight at all times
  • Operate the forklift in reverse when it improves visibility; except when moving up ramps.

  9. Driving on Ramps 

Forklift operatives should uphold good working practices at all times, especially when travelling on a on ramp or incline with a loaded forklift. The rules are simple –

  • If you’re travelling uphill, move in a forward direction
  • If travelling downhill, move in a backward direction
  • Always look in the direction of travel
  • Use a look out for additional safety if necessary
  • Stay away from the edge of the ramp
  • Do not travel on ramps with no railings
  • Do not travel on inclines that exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Never turn, change direction or load on a ramp

 10. At the end of the shift Once the task is completed or the operative’s shift ends, the forklift should be returned to the designated area and parked safely in the authorised space. Operatives should never change mid-shift, or in an unauthorised zone, without the new operative being given the time to check the vehicle and adjust the controls, seat and mirrors to suit them, in a safe and designated area.