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Top 7 tips to remember for safer forklift operation

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Forklift users need to be constantly reminded of the inherent dangers of using a forklift.

WorkCover recently responded to two incidents where a worker was injured while a load was being shifted in the vicinity using a forklift.

In the first incident, a worker received crush injuries when chains used to suspend the load slipped off the tines, causing the load to fall. In the second incident, while attempting to place a heavy concrete pit onto a rack with a forklift, the pit toppled onto a worker.

In both incidents, the procedures for lifting, transporting and lowering the load did not ensure the stability of the load at all times. Also, other workers near the forklift were not safely positioned.

Employers and workers who operate forklifts should note the following:

1. Employers must ensure that the plant is properly used. They also must develop and implement safe systems of work and provide employees with the information, instruction, training and supervision required to ensure their health and safety at work.

2. Apart from being trained, forklift operators must also hold a relevant license. They also must be competent at operating the forklift in the environments in which they are required to work.

3. Before lifting a load, the weight, size, shape and composition of a load should be considered, along with the terrain where the forklift will be operated. Loads must only be lifted, carried and stored in a manner that ensures stability at all times.

4. When carrying loads, avoid sudden or heavy braking that could cause the load to slide forwards.

5. Employers must provide appropriate equipment to lift and transport loads such as specially designed attachments when the tines alone are not suitable. However, attachments must only be used if such use is allowed by the manufacturer. Load rating for the combined use of the attachment with the forklift should be prominently displayed.

6. Slip-on attachments should be secured to prevent accidental disengagement from the supporting tines. Do not sling loads from tines, as there may be a risk of the sling sliding off the tines. If necessary (and allowed by the manufacturer), use a jib or other specifically designed attachment to carry underslung loads.

7. Employers must implement controls to prevent forklifts colliding with pedestrians or other mobile plant. These could include traffic management plans, signage, proximity warning devices, ‘no-go’ and ‘pedestrian only’ areas, site layout, using safely positioned spotters and similar measures.

Safety alert

Forklifts have numerous blind spots, especially if the carried load obstructs forward view. Operators should ensure pedestrians are excluded from the area or, where this is not reasonable practicable, remain in view at all times. Workers in the vicinity of operating forklifts should position themselves to be visible by the driver and remain clear of the travel path.

Australian Forklift Training specialises in courses for forklift training and forklift licences.

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