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Forklift safety: Are your operators driving with the forks too high?

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Ben Wade of Australian Forklift Training cautions companies about the consequences of the bad driving habits of their forklift operators.

Careless forklift operators can cause their forklifts to tip over, with a large number of accidents traced back to drivers trying to turn or stop the forklift just a little faster than they usually do.

Forklifts are designed to withstand an emergency braking or turning procedure without tipping over, only if the fork arms are low and close to the ground. In normal driving, the forks are supposed to be no higher than the front axle (below the middle of the front wheel).

If the forks are higher than the front axle, the operator will not be able to turn the forklift in an emergency without tipping it over sideways. Even braking in an emergency will tip it over forwards and the forklift will generally keep tipping until the forks hit the ground.

Safe forklift operation requires operators to wait until they are very close to the racking or truck that they are loading onto before lifting the forks above the front axle. The further away they are, or the earlier they start to raise the forks, the greater the risk of an accident.

If a person, car or another forklift comes around the corner, there is no way of stopping or turning to avoid them without tipping over. Operators entering a site to load a truck or put loads into racking for instance, typically start to raise their forks and load as they are driving in. If they are any further away, say about the length of the forklift, they are just inviting trouble. One of the most common bad habits in forklift drivers is raising and lowering the forks while driving as they leave themselves no room to stop or turn in an emergency situation without tipping over.

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