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Forgotten Safety Regulations: Forklift Safety

Juliette Garesche

Forklifts are an essential tool in most foundries because of the weight of the parts they manufacture. In fact, most foundries have multiple forklifts moving loaded pallets from one work station to the next and darting in and out of inventory stockpiles. People become so accustomed to working in close proximity to forklifts that it may be surprising to find that nearly 100,000 workers are injured each year by forklifts. There are about 856,000 forklifts in the U.S. so that means on average, more than one in 10 forklifts will be involved in a human injury, each year. OSHA’s term for forklift is powered industrial trucks (PITs), and it includes forklifts and related equipment such as platform lift trucks, standup riders, slideloaders, tow tractors, narrow-aisle order pickers, cherry pickers, walk behind or walkie powered jacks or lifts, etc. The American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II, ANSI B56.1-1969 defines the design and construction requirements for forklifts. All lifts should have an ANSI label or plaque confirming they are ANSI approved. Forklifts are also to be professionally inspected at least annually. The current year’s inspection details should be found on a sticker on each forklift.

Federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from operating a forklift, and everyone over 18 must receive forklift training and skills evaluation to become a certified forklift operator before driving a lift. Usually the company maintains the training certificates in its files, and wallet cards are issued to the operators. Both are good for a maximum of three years. Operators must be retrained any time they are observed driving poorly, have an accident or near miss, or are assigned a new type of forklift to drive. It is imperative that forklift operators review the forklift user guide for each type of forklift they will operate. Training can be conducted by any competent person. Forklift sales representatives often conduct training. Third party trainers are available and there are “Train-The-Trainer” programs so in-house personnel can become forklift trainers and train employees on an ongoing basis. Training program content is spelled out in OSHA resolution 1910.178(l)(3).

One important part of training is to teach forklift operators how to properly conduct a forklift inspection checklist. Every forklift that is in use must be inspected daily to ensure all features are working safely, and if the lift is in use around the clock, it must be inspected at the start of each shift. Examples of OSHA approved forklift inspection checklists can be found at the AFS website at www.afsinc.org/ehs. If a forklift is found to be damaged or functioning poorly, it must be removed from service until repaired.

Companies should not allow drivers to leave keys in forklifts. To limit liability, take prudent steps to prevent untrained employees from using a forklift. Forklifts do not drive like a car, so it is important that classroom and hands-on training be conducted under the supervision of an experienced trainer. How does a forklift differ from a car? Forklifts are heavier, they brake more slowly, they have many more blind spots, especially when carrying a load, they have a different turning radius, and they tip over more easily. Drivers must use caution and be aware of the vehicle’s center of gravity which can shift with each load they carry. If a forklift has a seat belt, it must be used. If the forklift tips and the driver tries to get out, they’ll likely be crushed. It is safest to remain belted into the forklift. It is also extremely important to keep hands, feet, arms and legs within the cab. Even resting a hand on an outer rail could cause the amputation of a digit or limb. Also, remember that a sudden stop can cause the load to shift and slip off the forks. It is important to load pallets so they are well balanced and to tip the load slightly back against the mast or a back board.

When carrying a load, operators may find their vision is blocked. If so, the driver should drive in reverse, looking over the shoulder to ensure the path is clear. Drivers must always look in the direction the forklift is moving. When on a ramp, incline or sloped surface greater than ten percent, the load should always be uphill. Steer clear from soft shoulders, and the edges of ramps or platforms. Operators must know the height of the forklift mast and if there are internal or external doorways the forklift cannot fit through. Never advance toward a person if there is a workbench, warehouse rack, wall, or other fixed object behind the person as they could easily be crushed. Stop to let pedestrians have the right of way. Establish eye contact and use clear hand signals. Slow down at intersections, doorways, aisles, or other places where employees could emerge. Heed stops signs, speed limits, and other traffic instructions. Also, never let employees work below or walk below hoisted forks, whether loaded or not, and never give fellow employees a “ride” on a forklift. Forklifts are not toys and horseplay or stunt driving must never be allowed.

When an operator is more than 25 ft. from his or her assigned forklift, it is “unattended” and the engine must be off, the forks fully lowered, the controls in neutral, the power shut off, the brake set, and the key should be in the driver’s possession. When fueling, it is important that the engine be turned off. Ensure there are no sparks, no smoking, and no flammables in the fueling area.

Review your foundry’s forklift safety program to ensure it adequately covers OSHA’s most frequently cited forklift violations:
•    1910.178(l)(1)(i) - Operator not properly trained (initial)
•    1910.178(l)(4)(i) - Operator not properly trained (refresher training as needed)
•    1910.178(l)(6) - Not keeping safe distance from edges (likely discovered after a tip-over)
•    1910.178(p)(1) - Not taking leaking or defective trucks out-of-operation (maintenance)
•    1910.178(q)(7) - Failing to properly inspect forklift before operation

Click here to see this story as it appears in the August 2018 issue of Modern Casting