Hello and welcome back for another edition of “Sandy’s Warehouse Safety Blog Series.” Today we are fortunate enough to have guest blogger Tom Reddon with us who is a Forklift Specialist for National Forklift Exchange and also a fellow MHEDA Member.

Forklifts can be a deadly weapon in the hands of the inexperienced, untrained, or distracted driver. Loads often tip sideways or forward, jeopardizing the safety of the driver and others in the area. As a result, companies are faced with lost time, lost product, and injury or death.

Drivers need to know what they are doing. They need to know the route, the terrain, and the ups and downs. They must look ahead to plan their pick, delivery, and offload. For safety’s sake, forklift truck drivers must examine potholes, slopes, and overhead projections.

Center of gravity

Every forklift has a center of gravity, usually just below the operator’s seat. That is the stability center when the truck is standing still. The load also has a center, approximately 20-inches forward of the

Lateral tip

The load and truck can tip sideways because of the speed on turns. Lifting the load off-center or lifting a load while on a slope can cause the load to shift to the side, as can turning with a raised load or on an incline.

Longitudinal tip

The load and truck can flip forward when overloaded or the load is undercut. Tipping is also likely on heavy braking or accelerating. If the load is lifted with a forward tilt to the mast or if it hits overhead obstructions, it will tip.

Load it well!

  • Examine the load. Light load or heavy load, it cannot be off-center.
  • Stack the load again or strap and latch it securely to the pallet.
  • Configure the best placement and stabilization for an odd-sized load.
  • Check for obstructions like lighting, pipes, or sprinklers.
  • Align the forks so with the weight is evenly distributed.
  • Drop the forks to the floor and move forward under the load until it abuts the backrest.
  • Test the load for instability by gently raising the load and tilting it back against the backrest.
  • Once the load is stabilized, move the load to a safe height about two to four inches above a smooth flat surface.

Move it carefully!

  • Move forward with forks at a safe height above the floor.
  • Raise forks at bumps and depressions in the floor, but do not raise or lower forks while moving.
  • Look forward and watch for pedestrians.  Always look in the direction of travel. Travel in reverse if your load blocks your vision.
  • Do not move a load without clear sight-lines; split a tall load on two separate pallets. If a load is so tall that you can’t see over it, try to split the load and carry it on two separate pallets.
  • Use a spotter or drive in reverse if the tall load cannot be split.
  • Travel straight on ramps and inclines.

What to do?

If worse comes to worst and the load shifts, the driver needs to think:

  • Do not jump from the tilting vehicle.
  • A belted seat belt will keep the driver in place, so the load and truck do not pin him/her.
  • Lean the opposite way of tipping.
  • Grip the grab handles or steering wheel.
  • Press feet on the floor to stay positioned in the seat.

Most forklift injuries occur to drivers who jump or fall from their trucks in the face of tipping over. It might seem instinct or common sense to jump, but the only safe place is sitting securely in the driver’s seat surrounded by the equipment and overhead guard fork backrest. When the truck moves, the center of gravity moves with it. The truck will tilt forward if the stabilizing center moves beyond that 20-inches, or sideways if the truck moves left or right of the stability center.

Tom Reddon is a Forklift Specialist for National Forklift Exchange and is the blog writer for the National Forklift Exchange Blog.  He is also part of the Executive Dialogue team for MHEDA.  You can connect with Tom via Twitter @TomReddon.

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