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Why taking forklifts the wrong way up or down slopes is dangerous

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Australian Forklift Training advises that taking a forklift up or down a slope the wrong way can be disastrous.

Quite a few forklift operators are not aware of the right and wrong way to travel on a sloping surface. When taken the wrong way up or down a slope or ramp, the forklift will cause the load to fall off (and in most cases the forklift will run the load over); tip over forward (with the back wheels lifting off of the ground until the forks dig into the surface; lock the front wheels and slide uncontrollably down the slope; and wheel spin without being able to safely make it up the ramp or slope.

The right way up or down a slope

When using a forklift on any ramp or sloped ground, the fork should always be driven straight up or down the slope. Steep slopes are best avoided. The load should always face uphill; if the forklift is travelling up the hill, the load faces uphill. If the forklift is coming down the same slope, the load should still face uphill.

Coming down a hill with the load facing forward can cause the load to fall off. If the driver hits the brakes suddenly the forklift can tip forwards. However, if the forklift is not carrying anything, the rules are a little different. Forklifts being taken down a steep slope or incline will need to be driven forks first as all of the driving and braking is done with the front wheels. Going forks first puts more weight on the braking wheels giving more traction to the operator.

The correct procedure should be to go forwards at a low speed with the forks as close to the ground as possible. Operators should go slowly enough so that if the brakes need to be applied in an emergency, the back of the forklift won’t lift up. The forks should be as low as possible so that if they do travel faster than they should or have to brake suddenly, the forks will hit the ground, preventing the back from lifting far. When going up a steep or slippery ramp, the forklift may need to be driven in reverse to transfer more weight over the front wheels.

Organisations should assess the slopes and ramps on their site and work out safe procedures for forklift operators to follow. The right type of forklift training will help drivers learn how best to negotiate the slopes or ramps at the site.

Without adequate training, in the event of an accident, there is likelihood of WorkCover and the insurance company pointing out the failure of the company to correctly train their operators.

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