It’s very common in many industries to use forklifts in their daily operation. Whether used in manufacturing plants, warehouses, retail applications or any other industries needing to move big loads or merchandise, forklifts are very crucial in the daily operations and supply chains of many businesses. Because of its frequent level of use, many operators and even nearby pedestrians can become complacent about the safety protocols around such heavy machinery, and this complacency can have many negative effects that includes damage to assets, fines, employee injury or worse, personnel death.
Consider these numbers if you own a warehouse or use forklifts:
- 24% of workplace accidents are due to forklifts.
- $1.6 billion is lost or damaged product every year.
- $156,000 is the average cost associated with workplace injury.
- 18.8% of worker fatalities were drivers of transport or personnel handling equipment.
A report from the Australian Transport News stated that during 2017, SafeWork NSW prosecuted and fined four New South Wales businesses for incidents where workers were injured and killed by a forklift. Among the injured was truck driver Rami Eayla who suffered a fractured leg due to inadequately restrained glass panels that fell on him.
A New South Wales meat processing business was also fined $375,000 in September of last year.
Beyond the human factor, injuries and fatalities can also come from detectable equipment failure when an operator has not properly inspected and assessed equipment before and after use. Forklift manufacturers, safety regulators and the company itself should promote forklift inspection before operation, but most often, these inspections are often neglected and are poorly documented.
Safety is the primary and obvious reason that daily inspections should be conducted and so is compliance because thousands of dollars could be spent based on failure to determine the forklift safety prior to operation.
In addition to the safety and compliance related to forklift safety, there’s also a cost-savings factor related to proactive discovery of issues and predictive maintenance of forklifts. Discovering forklift issues limits downtime and prevents a more expensive repair. Following a pre-operation forklift inspection routine is not that difficult, but it does take continuous support from management and a high level of discipline from the operator.
Pre-operational checks should be done through physical and visual checks.
The inspector/operator should first go around the forklift and perform a visual inspection, looking for any of the following:
- worn out tires.
- incorrect pressure in tires.
- damage to the mast and lifting assembly, body and overhead guard damage.
- dents or cracks on the load backrest.
- conditions of the lights and gauges and any other parts that may be damaged from the previous operation or shift.
- It’s also important to check the fluid levels like the coolant, fuel, hydraulic and brake fluids.
Any damage found during the physical inspection should be kept on record on the daily inspection lists.
After going through the pre-operational check, the actual operational check should be performed before using the forklift. Checks includes:
- Checking if the handbrake is faulty to prevent a runaway.
- Checking the transmission condition if the forklift has reverse and forward control.
- Inspect the inching control if the truck is fitted with it.
- Inspect the forklift hoisting and lowering control and tilt control function is as it should be.
- The horns and the back-up alarm should be working properly and should emit an audible sound when activated.
- Headlamps and flashers should turn on and emit enough brightness.
- The forklift’s gauges and instruments should be working correctly because they will also indicate if there’s something wrong with the machine.
Repair and Out Of Commission
A time will come when a forklift must be removed from service to be repaired or replaced. Different factors can include:
- A serious problem has been detected that could affect its safe operation. This should be immediately reported to the supervisor and maintenance supervisor.
- If there are sparks and flames coming out from the exhaust. The forklift should be removed from the operation and repairs should be done as soon as possible. This may be an overheating issue and is a hazardous condition, which can cause a fire or an explosion.
- If there’s a fuel leak, the forklift should be taken out of service and repaired as soon as possible.
Maintenance Best Practices
Just like caring for a car at home, caring for the forklift is one of the best ways of caring for your company’s asset. Below are some of the best practices you can do regularly to keep your forklifts in tiptop shape.
- Always keep the forklift clean and smudge and excess oil free.
- Always follow the company’s maintenance procedure and the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance time table.
- Monitoring the truck’s condition and going through the scheduled maintenance to keep it in optimum working condition.
- Removing the forklift form operation if it is considered unsafe to use until the needed maintenance is performed of full repair has been completed.
- Repairs should be performed by an authorized mechanic only. Never attempt any repairs unless you are a trained or licensed personnel.
- Avoid using a forklift that needs to be fixed or in need of maintenance. Doing so will surely cause more damage to the forklift and could put the operator and other personnel into a great risk.
A pre-operation check done daily could increase productivity and lessen the maintenance cost and downtime. Safety should always be the first priority in the workplace.