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A forklift is nothing like any other vehicle. Specific precautions must be used, and operators must be aware of all the factors necessary to use one safely.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind while operating a forklift that can help reduce accidents or injuries:

  1. Only Let Licensed, Trained Operators Use the Forklift
  • Obtaining a license is a requirement of operating a forklift; check your area for training programs and facilities to prepare yourself or your team members.
  1. Wear Appropriate Clothing
  • Safe workplace attire must be worn, including:
    • Hard hat
    • Safety boots with stiff ankle and steel toes
    • Hi-visibility vests or gear
    • Protective goggles in hi-dust or bright environments
  • Ensure that all clothing is close-fitting to avoid articles getting caught in machinery
  • Make sure your hands are clean and not sweaty or greasy to maintain grip on controls
  1. Perform an Inspection Before Operating
  • Examine the entire forklift with a routine check before entering the equipment; focus particularly on:
    • Brakes
    • Tires
    • Steering
    • Controls
    • Warning systems
  • If you notice anything out of order, do not operate the forklift and report the damage or problems immediately.
  1. Use Care When Entering and Starting the Forklift
  • Always use steps and hand rails as intended to get seated safely.
  • Adjust the seat and mirrors to ensure visibility and easy access to all controls.
  • Do not start the forklift until you are completely in your seat with belt fastened and all body parts completely inside the cabin.
  1. Pay Attention to Your Environment
  • Think ahead and evaluate any potential hazards or dangers you could encounter based on your surroundings.
  • Use only designated roadways and pathways.
  • Observe all signs and safety notices, especially posted height clearances and weight limits.
  • Pay particular attention to the height of your load and mast when entering or exiting buildings or entry ways.
  • Avoid getting too close to loading dock or ramp edges.
  1. Drive Safely
  • Hold yourself to a safe, deliberate speed limit.
  • Take corners slowly and carefully to avoid tipping.
  • Be gradual and careful while making stops or changes in direction.
  1. Identify and Avoid Hazards
  • Steer away of any bumps or uneven surfaces, as well as slippery substances.
  • Do not drive over loose objects or debris that can cause loss of control.
  • Activate the horn when entering blind corners or nearing any people.
  • Maintain a buffer area between trucks, people and other equipment.
  • Be prepared to stop safely.
  1. Secure and Stabilize Your Load
  • Inspect each load visually for signs of damage or unsecured bindings.
  • Always transport loads tilted towards the cabin and with the forks low for better control and stability.
  • Scan for overhead objects before lifting or stacking loads.
  • Never move a load that seems unstable or unsafe in any way.
  • Have loads stacked evenly and positioned across both forks.
  • Use added bindings or ropes if needed.
  1. Ensure Clear Visibility at All Times
  • Only place loads onto racking that you have clear line-of-sight with.
  • You can operate the forklift in reverse to improve visibility, except when travelling up ramps.
  • Use a spotter to help you in situations where visibility is poor.
  • Do not operate the forklift without either clear visibility or a spotter.
  1. Only Carry Loads or Designated Equipment
  • Never let someone else ride with you on the forklift unless another approved seat is installed.
  • Use compatible work platforms and safety cages when you need to lift someone; follow all instructions and do not change position without warning while someone is being lifted.
  1. Be Aware of Common Dangers
  • The machinery in the mast can easily crush limbs; avoid getting near it at all costs.
  • Never let someone stand near or walk under a load.
  1. Drive on Ramps Appropriately
  • Always face the elevated end of the ramp; move up ramps facing forward and back down ramps in reverse.
  • Never adjust your load or turn while on a ramp.
  1. Keep Equipment Limitations in Mind
  • Always be certain that the load you are carrying does not exceed the weight limit.
  • Never use fork tips alone to move or lift a load; the load must always be completely supported by both forks.
  • Never use pallets that are damaged, decayed, deformed or that look suspicious or unsafe in any way.
  1. Use Care When Refuelling
  • Double check the type of fuel needed for the forklift before refueling.
  • Refuel only at designated locations.
  • Switch the equipment completely off before refueling.
  • For internal combustion engines (gas or diesel), keep open flames and sparks away from refueling areas and make sure the area is well-ventilated.
  1. Be Diligent When the Shift Is Over
  • Follow protocol for storing the forklift; park it in designated areas.
  • Completely lower the forks and apply the parking brake.
  • Turn off the forklift, remove the key and place it in the designated spot.
  • Never leave a forklift running and unattended.

By following these instructions, the likelihood of serious injury or property damage is greatly reduced. However, not all situations are completely avoidable. Make sure that your job site and company is covered by an insurance policy that can cover liability and personal property damage when operating heavy machinery like forklifts.

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