Forklift Truck Safety – Never Lose Focus

19/04/2012 | Author: bartonbond | Posted in Others

A business that uses forklifts soon realises they become an integral part of productivity. So much so, that it has been said that, when operating well, a forklift is effectively worth between 10 – 15 workers. In fact, for the myriad of tasks they perform there is no other industrial machine that is more universally functional.

Forklifts help businesses achieve greater efficiencies and higher productivity levels. After all, what is the point of warehouse racking if you don’t have a machine to insert the goods? Also, forklifts allow processes to be placed further apart if you don’t have the space, they cut down transport loading and unloading times, permit the delivery of heavier loads, and allow couriers to deliver more goods, faster.

Furthermore, lifting devices quickly turn a simple forklift into a multi-purpose unit fit for many jobs. It is an amazing piece of machinery, which has a flow-on effect of efficiencies felt in every link of the supply chain or manufacturing process; and to imagine our work life without them now is not possible.

The forklift – a safety mechanism

Forklifts not only assist productivity, but also help reduce many injuries. Prior to forklifts, manual handling was the manner in which many companies went about the business of moving product within a facility or loading and unloading vehicles. If it was a heavier load you just recruited more people to assist with the lift. If it was heavy and awkward, you used a jemmy bar to dislodge it, and then lift! It is good business to use forklifts.

Risk management approach (Productivity versus Safety)

Forklifts have increased productivity and reduced manual lifting and the chance of musculoskeletal disorders, but the question is, are they safe?

Under OHS regulations forklifts are considered Plant; and being such, demand a risk assessment approach. Forklifts are mobile units which lift high loads, drive through numerous work zones when delivering to process areas, remove empty pallets, perform u-turns in tight spaces, travel next to or across walkways, and can travel at speeds faster than a human can walk. They carry long lengths, odd shapes and heavy weights, they also range in size and engine power, can have longer tynes, be fitted with a variety of attachments, often work in close proximity to people, and rely heavily upon the driver’s ability.

There is considerable risk when carrying out much of the above as forklifts can tip over, throw drivers from the cabin, drop things, collide with people and structures, be dragged over by trucks during unloading, be drawn over by pendulum swinging loads, fall from loading docks, tip over on rough surfaces, pierce people and things, be driven too fast, roll over on corners or sloping surfaces, release hydraulic mechanisms during maintenance, and be used for things other than what they where designed for. Also, forklift safety depends enormously on the driver knowing what the rules are and applying them every minute of every hour of usage, every working day.

Risks and obligations – too great to disregard

Notwithstanding the benefits of forklifts, they have developed a reputation as being one of the most dangerous tools a business has, and as such require constant control over their operation. Figures on forklift-related injuries and deaths internationally are too high to neglect, thrusting forklifts into a high-risk category requiring the implementation of high-level controls which, for the sake of the people and the business, need to be maintained, monitored and reviewed. This includes training. It is imperative to ensure drivers are thoroughly trained and competent in forklift driving, materials handling and hazard control pertaining to their role. This can only be achieved by using a reputable forklift training company.

Purchasing for safety

Generally, when purchasing forklifts, a business applies the risk management principles of cost reduction and increased efficiencies, and yet many businesses do not understand the underlying OHS risk management principle of risk assessment, which should be factored in well before purchase. It is poor management to rely on the operations or maintenance manual for the identification of hazards, and will be far from the safety regulator’s expectation as they investigate a company’s due diligence, duty of care and statutory obligations should an incident occur involving a forklift.

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Author: bartonbond

This author has published 9 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.

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