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National forklift safety day

Operator Practices A Priority At National Forklift Safety Day

By Safety, Safety, Safety No Comments

Today marks the 7th annual National Forklift Safety Day, typically held in Washington DC.  However, due to the challenges of COVID-19 this year, the event will be held as a virtual event.

The annual event hosted by the Industrial Truck Association gathers forklift manufacturers to meet and reinforce the importance of operator safety training and forklift best safety practices. While it’s a virtual event this year, the format will remain the same with presentations from government representatives, safety experts and industry representatives. It’s the industry’s chance to unite behind safety and, perhaps this year more than ever, discuss and focus on the need to reinforce the need for operator best practices.

forklift inspections

The most common requirement of occupational health and safety entities throughout the world is the pre-shift forklift inspection; and for good reason. Pre-shift inspections are designed to be a proactive precaution to identify possible hazardous issues with forklifts and lower the risk of a forklift related injury or fatality.

No doubt, the topic of pre-shift inspections will come up at this year’s virtual National Forklift Safety Day. With alarming levels of workplace injuries and deaths in the US and Canada related to forklifts, why aren’t more companies complying with the regulatory entities in North American and around the world and completing pre-shift inspections? While the evidence is somewhat anecdotal, companies report resistance having to do with not unformed habits due to lack of management-initiated processes, management resistance to the cost or not seeing enough value, and the process of using, keeping track of, and filing of paper reports.

In this digital world, and the age of “going green”, a solution to any inadequate arguments for not completing pre-shift inspections has now been eliminated. 

Our MasterCheck app automates and simplifies the inspection process by providing operators with a quick and easy way to complete inspections from any type of device. The app remembers the operator and forklift information and quickly populates all identification fields. Operators then complete forklift inspections, repair reports, accident reports and near-miss reports, even including relevant photos, then simply click “send” to have the inspection sent to their supervisor and saved in the cloud. No more looking for lost paper reports – everything is automated.

forklift inspection app

The operator’s app is synced to the company’s web-based Supervisor Dashboard and provides the supervisor with important operational analytics and management tools including Pass/Fail history sorted by operator or forklift and accident, near miss and repair report graphs full of important data. From the Supervisor Dashboard the supervisor can also set up custom notifications to anyone else in the company regarding any type of occurrence.

Want to add or edit any safety item on a specific inspection? The supervisor can customize inspection forms to suit the company’s specific requirements and the changes will instantly appear on the operators app.

National Forklift Safety Day

Users of the MasterCheck app with web-based Supervisor Dashboard agree that it remedies any resistance to completing the important pre-shift inspections, while providing insights not available to management before, making the workplace an even safer one.

“We use the MasterCheck forklift inspection app for thirty-five forklifts in our locations throughout North Carolina and Texas, and it’s saving us a tremendous amount of time and paperwork,” said Glen Wegel, VP Operations, Kitchen Cabinet Distributors.

Forklift Inspection App Means Paperless Efficiencies

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Paper was invented in China between 25 – 200 CE and so it follows that ‘paperwork’ happened soon afterwards. For the many centuries between then and now, business people around the world used paper to keep track of everything in their offices, warehouses and stores. Only just recently has society evolved better habits and now there’s a digital alternative in going paperless that also eliminates most of the inefficiencies.  Going digital in the case of a forklift inspection app also means employees suffer much less of the dreaded paperwork and going green.

forklift inspection

Why Use Paperless Inspection Checks For Forklifts?

With digital forklift inspection checks, managers don’t need to sort through mountains of paper to find documents related to the various types of forklift inspections and reports.  Supervisors that use cloud-based filing systems can access data from any device with an internet connection.

Sharing knowledge among staff and management is critical to success in a competitive businesses. But when everything is scribbled on note cards or paper pads, transferring information can be impractical.

Using digital collaboration tools not only reduces paper in the office, but makes it easier to share data and circulate information among key managers. This can improve teamwork, encourage innovation, and lead to better problem solving.

Online tools such as forklift safety check apps allow employees to share reports including photos of known issues – something impossible to do with traditional paper pads inspections. The device-based methodology is a far more efficient system and provides greater clarity for ongoing issues.

Digital Forklift Safety Reports Streamline Cloud Based Workplace Efficiencies

Each paper report has to be filled out, signed, handed in or collected on site and brought back to office, and then filed away inside a metal filing-cabinet. That process is a waste of time and of course, paper.

Going paperless with the MasterCheck app means workers can simply fill out the requisite checklists on a personal or company device and then immediately get back to work.

Digital Inspection Check Forms Are Less Easily Lost Or Damaged

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, digital resources are much harder to lose than paper reports.

Yes, digital information is ethereal, and doesn’t really exist, but when using cloud based storage systems the record is backed-up in half a dozen different places all over North America and the world. Paper documents by comparison often get too dirty, wet, ripped, smudged, crumpled and torn, or at worst, completely lost. It’s one of the hazards of a hazardous workplace environment; paper documents are perishable.

Digital Safety Check Forms Expand To The Required Size  

Using typical forklift inspection paper pads make it difficult to get very specific about issues. There is limited space to write all of the details of an issues or worse, an accident.  This results in operators being discouraged with the paper pad limitations on getting specific about the problems they’ve encountered on the forklift. 

paper forklift inspection

Digital forms never run out of space and the responses recorded in type are always legible. In the MasterCheck forklift inspection app the explanation fields have no limitation so all of the details can be collected. The more details that are collected, the more data that can be analyzed to ensure the best performance of a forklift fleet and operators.

Digital Forklift Safety Check App Makes Better Information, More Accurate Audits

Safety documentation is crucial to proving due diligence in the case of an audit or worse an accident investigation. Paper-based systems are prone to errors when operators easily miss crucial fields on their forms. With the MasterCheck App, drivers’ signatures are automatically time and date stamped and inspections cannot be saved without all fields being completed.

mastercheck forklift inspection app

Digital forklift safety checks build databases filled with accurate information that can be mined for real-time updates on individual or fleet performance. Supervisors can provide audits quickly and easily to anyone in the organization and track completed audits in the Supervisor Dashboard. The web-based Supervisor Dashboard allows management to view key fleet performance metrics anywhere managers go, including on their mobile devices.

forklift accident

What Caused The Forklift Accident?

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If you ask the investigator, ‘what caused the forklift accident in the warehouse?’ they will likely tell you it was operator error. Statistically speaking they’re correct. That does account for most accidents, but maybe the answer is too easy.  What else could be going on?    

Forklift operators have a lot more freedom and less supervision than other employees. Good operators become linchpins, integral to the smooth loading and unloading of merchandise. Bad operators are a nightmare that can hold up production lines or worse, hurt people. Yet, regardless of their training and experience, when accidents happen, there are always other factors. 

Other Factors That Contribute To Forklift Accidents

Distracted and inattentive operators should probably be placed at the top of the list.  The saddest part is that such mishaps are one hundred percent preventable.

When employees are rushed, frustrated, fatigued or work without awareness, their chances of making hazardous mistakes are greatly increased. It’s important for workers to recognize when their thoughts and emotions are eclipsing their safety. It’s also important for supervisors and safety professionals to know when to intervene or remind drivers to consider their state of mind.

Top 10 Forklift Accidents Video on YouTube

The shelves at 2:45 were totally unstable! Like dominoes. How can the entire shelving unit be destroyed by one leg? Same with 3:15. Just crazy.

When it comes to forklift safety, properly training an employee on task-specific equipment before they get in the driver’s seat is mandatory, but not enough for long-term safety. As time passes, regulations change and equipment ages or gets replaced.  More concerning is when employees become complacent about safety. All of these factors make refresher training a key component of a healthy workplace.

We assembled a list of factors which most commonly contribute to forklift accidents.

Forklift Operators Driving Too Fast

lower speed to reduce accidents

Forklifts traveling at excessive speeds may seem like a hyper-productive work environment, but unless the staff is incredibly well trained, they will crash someday and their speed will amplify the magnitude of the collision.

While driving too fast clearly falls into the operator error category, though some responsibility must be shared by supervisors who condoned the raceway and turned a blind eye to the developing situation.

While the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t recommend a specific speed for forklift drivers, they do indicate that the responsibility is for the operator to drive within the employer-specified speed limit.

safe speed

One remedy is to set speed limits and use a radar-operated forklift speed sign. Operators are alerted to SLOW DOWN when the unit senses vehicles moving over the set limit.

Forklifts Driving With The Load Elevated

warning sign

Traveling with a high center of gravity diminishes the equipment’s stability triangle and greatly increases the likelihood of tipping the load and possibly even upsetting the forklift.

A forklift has a three-point suspension system. The points are found over both of the two load (front) wheels and midway between the rear wheels. When imaginary lines are drawn to connect them, what’s known as the stability triangle is formed.  Factors such as heavy loads or unbalanced loads, driving on sloping or uneven terrain, or turning with elevated loads can result in the center of gravity moving outside of the triangle. The result can be catastrophic.

The operator must ensure that the center of the load remains within the stability triangle to guard against tipping over.

Backing Up Forklifts In Busy Places

In some workplace environments with inclined planes and with certain models and equipment where the load blocks the driver’s view, operators are encouraged to drive in reverse. But be aware, according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), forklifts rank fourth in the number of fatalities caused by back-overs. Though OSHA does not require backup alarms on powered industrial trucks such as forklifts, they state, “certain operating conditions may require the use of additional warning devices, such as backup alarms.”

A smart business can protect itself and its employees from an unfortunate accident by purchasing a simple back-up alarm for forklifts or other powered industrial vehicles. There are even high-tech models that automatically adjust their sound level to be louder than ambient noise. Back-up cameras and of course mirrors are also worthy preventative options.

Improper Turning, Braking Or Accelerating Forklifts

Because forklifts carry loads up front, they need a heavy back-end counterweight for balance. Driving a forklift above the proper speed and then suddenly turning will likely ‘drift’ the rear end as the inertia carries the weight in direction traveled.  This is clearly dangerous.

Since a forklift is turned by moving the rear wheels, it has a much smaller turning radius than a car. When cornering, the rear end swings outward. A forklift is also easier to tip over on a turn. The driver needs to be very careful when turning, stopping, or accelerating, since the vehicle could tip over, or the load could fall off.

Stunt driving forklift operators who are TikTok celebrity wannabes are downright dangerous.   Dangerous for them and for the forty percent of forklift accidents in the USA involving pedestrians.

Lack Of Requisite Caution Signs For Forklifts 

forklift danger sign

Accidents in warehouses are sometimes caused by pedestrians wandering into the path of forklifts who are not expecting them. Everyone is taken by surprise when such a calamity happens. Is it the fault of the driver, or the pedestrian? In most cases, it’s the floor manager’s fault for not posting proper warnings regarding the forklift in use nearby.

LED blue forklift safety lights can be installed to warn pedestrians of nearby forklifts and can also warn operators about another forklift that has entered their zone. When drivers spot the blue lights, they can tell from which direction another driver is coming, and it helps them navigate and avoid collisions.

Coordinated Forklifts Without A Coordinating Plan

Poor communication during shared tasks, or in shared spaces can lead to accidents. Sometimes a shared plan doesn’t have a proper contingency for bad weather, for traffic or for something unexpected happening on site. When operators and machines work together there can sometimes be misunderstandings that cause confusion and cause unsafe circumstances.

In the video that’s shared in this article there are a few examples where one group of workers doesn’t know or seem to realize what the forklift operator is doing until it’s too late.

Forklifts Ferrying Riders

Forklift operators who offer rides to other staff are simply asking for trouble. Unless the vehicle is designed to accommodate riders, which some personnel carriers are, forklift operators are causing passengers to take a very big risk when they step onboard to save themselves a walk.

forklift recklessness

Compare a forklift to a car and you’ll recognize that these heavy machines are unique vehicles that present special challenges to drivers and afford no protection to riders. While the average automobile only weighs about 3,000 pounds, the average forklift weighs about 9,000 pounds. Also, forklifts are heavier in the rear to counter the weight of items being carried on the forks. And while cars have brakes on all four wheels, most forklifts only have stopping power in their front drive wheels. The rear counterweight and the front-wheel drive combined make the forklifts harder to stop, so they should be driven slowly. If the rider falls off the vehicle, then there is almost no way for the driver to stop in time to prevent them being crushed by the machine.

Forklift Parking Infractions Can Bring Deadly Fines

Forklifts that are improperly parked are just accidents waiting to happen. A forklift operator who gets out of a parked forklift that hasn’t been properly secured is in danger of being run over by his own vehicle. Similarly, a forklift that is parked on a ramp or incline without the parking brake being set could easily become a runaway train that weighs many thousands of pounds.

One of the first lessons of forklift safety is how to properly park a forklift.

Where the lift is parked matters. Gravity is one of the biggest dangers to forklift operators. Parking on a ramp, incline, or on an uneven surface can cause the forklift to roll down the slope. If the surface is steep enough, the vehicle’s parking brakes may not be enough to stop it from rolling.

Forklift drivers should test the parking brake on their machines to make sure it’s working properly by setting it, then putting the vehicle into either forward or reverse gear and stepping on the accelerator pedal slightly. If the vehicle doesn’t move, it’s safe. If it moves a little, try pushing the parking brake down further.

Unsafe Workplace Conditions For Forklifts

Some factors to consider here include improper blocking of wheels on semi-trailers or railway cars; this causes a lot of terrible accidents when platforms shift at exactly the wrong time. More obvious hazards are flooding, ice patches, gravel or tar on traveled surfaces.  The danger of skidding when traveling on oil, grease, water or other spills rises with the size and viscosity of the errant substance.

Forklift operators in warehouses share a responsibility with other warehouse works to keep all aisles clear. If an area is cluttered, they should walk the route first to spot potential problems. Workplaces with overhead obstructions are problematic.  When working outside in industrial areas, operators are trained to never drive straight across speed bumps or railroad tracks. Cross slowly at a 45-degree angle and to maintain steering control by keeping contact with the ground at all times.

Extreme weather can also impact the safety of an operation and in particular the forklift operators safety.

Read Forklift Safety In Wet And Windy Weather for more details and recommendations.

Forgetting Routine Forklift Maintenance

A routine and preventative maintenance schedule is crucial in identifying mechanical issues that could be hazardous, ensuring every truck’s continued safe operations and preserving financial investments. Maintenance should include a visual and operational pre-shift forklift inspections checks. Any forklift requiring maintenance should be immediately identified and depending on the severity of the issue, even be removed from service. By using the MasterCheck forklift inspection app, operators can quickly and easily check their machines. The aggregate of inspection data is accumulated on the Supervisor Dashboard and performance of forklifts and operators are easily analyzed by management.

The paperless MasterCheck app automates and simplifies the inspection process by providing operators with a quick and easy way to complete inspections from any type of device. The app remembers the operator and forklift information and quickly populates all identification fields. Operators then complete forklift inspections, repair reports, accident reports and near-miss reports, even including relevant photos, then simply click “send” to have the inspection sent to their supervisor and saved in the cloud.

All repair work performed on vehicles must be compliant with regulations and operators should not perform any repairs on the trucks unless they’re trained to do so. Additionally, no modifications should be made to a forklift if they’re not approved by the manufacturer. Always ask the forklift service provider to provide a written list of the maintenance being performed for your records.

forklift safety in rain

Forklift Safety In Wet And Windy Weather

By Safety

Forklift drivers who are employed to operate their forklift outside will invariably have to deal with inclement weather.   This can be a test of their abilities, their skill and experience.  But wet weather also challenges managers to reduce the stakes and make the workplace safer. Here are some safety tips that drivers and supervisors can adopt to overcome the elements in outdoor work environments.

Working In The Rain Requires Lights And A Drain

Debris hazards and unstable ground only get worse in the rain and unexpected ponds can be deadly.  Other surface obstructions can even cause risk of overturns if not immediately identified, remedied and all drivers warned of the hazards in advance. Managers and operators should clear the ground of obstructions and plan to avoid any unfixable issues before beginning the day’s work. Wherever possible, drain puddles in the workspace or flag areas to avoid for maximum forklift safety.

wet forklift safety

When operating a forklift in the rain, operators should always remember the forklift will be less manoeuvrable. The brakes will likely be less responsive, and the forks will be slick. Go slow and take all precautions to avoid accidents.

Most safety experts will tell you the most statistically unsafe situations are generally those where the forklift is operated half-inside and half-outside. 

Forklift Drivers Personal Gear Affects Forklift Safety 

When the weather is wet and rainy, drivers need to wear the appropriate gear to be comfortable and safe. Gloves and hats are required to keep operators comfortable and responsive.  If operating a forklift and repeatedly going from warm and dry interiors to cold and wet exteriors, zippered coats and well-ventilated gear can become mandatory.

Forklift operators should have workplace rated protective footwear with pronounced tread so they can walk on slippery surfaces, as proper footwear prevents more slips and falls than you might expect. Also, drivers’ gloves should have non-slip grips.

Wet Work Sites Require More Experience And Less Distractions

It’s always important to avoid distractions and keep focused, and this becomes even more critical in heavy rain. Supervisors can take a tour around the workspace and take note of any potential hazards. Reduce any distractions.  Consider installing mirrors, adding lights front and back of the forklift as well as reflective strips.

Outfitting Your Forklift For Wet Weather

Homemade forklift covers reduce visibility. While it may seem tempting to add plywood roofs and vinyl covers these add-ons can reduce driver visibility and they’re sure to be spotted by safety inspectors and could lead to fines and increased scrutiny.  So remove the plywood, plastic shrink wrap or cardboard covers. If your forklift cover isn’t perfectly clear and if it blocks the operator’s view in anyway, then you’ll likely face fines.  Choose a cover designed with ribs and gutters to handle the water. Heavy duty full forklift cab enclosures made of clear vinyl are a good option and are a lot less expensive than having to pay a fine.

forklift safety rain cover

Slow down on rainy days. It’s a precaution that limits productivity, but nothing is safer than slower forklifts.  We all would drive our cars slower in inclement weather and the same applies to forklift trucks. Taking extra time and increased care with a forklift is even more important.

During days of inclement weather, pre-shift forklift inspections become especially important. Occupational Health and Safety legislation around the world requires that the pre-shift inspections are completed in detail and retained by the company for future reference. It’s estimated that as much as ten percent of potential forklift safety issues are discovered by the operator during the pre-shift inspection. That means that complying with this important legislation prevents major repairs, accidents, injuries and even in extreme cases, fatalities.

mastercheck forklift safety app

The Mastercheck app is the perfect way to complete the pre-shift inspections with the added advantages of going paperless and backing up inspections in the cloud. No more stuffing inspections in filing cabinets when the saved inspection will now be available at the supervisor or operator’s fingertips. When the web-based Full Company Access is utilized with the Supervisor Dashboard, the supervisor may manage all forklifts, operators, view all inspections as well as accident reports, repair reports and near miss reports all with photos of any issues. Further analytics provide the supervisors with in-depth reporting on details and even trends for “fails”, accidents and near misses.

When inclement weather threatens your operation, take the necessary precautions as listed above and always complete a pre-shift forklift inspection. This will ensure a much safer workplace, happier forklift operators and an environment any company would be proud of.