How to ensure forklift safety in the workplace
No matter how experienced your employees, working with forklifts can pose a serious hazard to staff safety. Each year, approximately 400 people are injured by forklifts in Victoria, while 61 fatalities occurred across the country between 2003 and 2017 as a direct result of working with forklifts.
This machinery doesn’t just pose a threat to those operating the machinery, but to pedestrians that are exposed to them in the working environment. Forklifts can weigh anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 kilograms, with this number increasing when carrying a load. Their rear counterweights can turn quickly, take time to stop and have several blind spots. All of these factors make operating forklifts safely and working around them with care absolutely vital.
Here are some tips to improve forklift safety procedures and processes that can mitigate the risk of injury in the workplace.
Ensure all operators are qualified
It is imperative that everyone who operates a forklift in the workplace possesses an up-to-date licence permitting them to do so. Each state in Australia has its own laws regarding the type of licence required to operate a forklift, so make sure to familiarise yourself with the one which applies to you.
The only case where a licence is not required is when an employee is considered to be “in training” to operate a forklift, in which case they should be undergoing and currently enrolled in a training course. This type of use can continue until the employee is deemed competent enough to be assessed, however they must be within sight and sound of a licensed operator at all times. It is not sufficient that there is a licensed operator somewhere on the premises.
WorkSafe has a zero tolerance policy on unsafe or illegal operation of forklifts, dramatically increasing the risk of prosecution for those who cause or tolerate non-compliance with health and safety laws.
Stabilise forklift loads and attachments
One of the major causes of forklift injury is improper loading that results in loads fallings form forklifts and crushing operators or other staff. Heavy loads that are not secured correctly are a huge risk to pedestrian staff when attempting to help the forklift operator unload or load goods onto a forklift.
Your effective forklift safety strategy should ensure that appropriate attachments are used when loading specific types of goods. Any employees who are unsure of how to use such attachments should be trained to do so before they attempt to operate the machinery. It is also important that employees never attempt to overload a forklift and that all loads be correctly stabilised before moving off.
Set up safety exclusion zones
Pedestrian workers and forklifts don’t mix. For this reason, the two should be separated in the workplace as much as is feasible so as to minimise the risk of injury and likelihood of accidents.
Establishing designated safety exclusion zones for both pedestrians and forklift operators should be part of every employers forklift safety strategy. There are several ways this can be done, including creating physical barriers such as fences, guardrails, boom gates, and even bright tape stuck to the floor. Another option is to create overhead walkways that keep pedestrians elevated above heavy machinery.
Any employee who is exposed to forklifts in the workplace should undertake correct training that makes them aware of the dangers associated with forklifts and how to best manage and mitigate these risks.
Ensure that staff are aware that they should only be close to forklifts if absolutely necessary, that they know the forklift blind spots and, if they do assist in unloading, they are taught the safest method to do so. In any situation, an employee should never be forced to work with a forklift if they feel unsafe or unsure.
Complete a checklist
Completing a forklift safety checklist should be part of every operator’s daily routine. Before starting a shift, all operators should check their forklift is in safe working order, ready to be used and capable of completing the tasks required of it. You can find a comprehensive check list from WorkSafe here.
Driving a forklift on the road
It is important for an employer to note that if a forklift has to be driven outside the workplace on a public road, it must be registered and have number plates. In addition to holding a current forklift licence, the operator must also hold a current Victorian driver’s licence.
Bayside Group can provide you with safety compliance and monitoring, safety prevention, injury management and return to work management. Speak with us today and see how we can help keep your employees and business safe.