Operating a forklift might seem like a pretty straightforward activity, but the truth is, there are nearly 100,000 forklift-related accidents each year. And unfortunately, there are nearly 100 fatalities. To enhance forklift safety it all starts with the right training. More so, it involves ongoing inspections of forklifts as well as continuing education on various attachments that are used with this type of heavy machinery.

Staying In Compliance With OSHA

To stay in compliance with OSHA, forklift operators must undergo an extensive amount of training. Part of this training covers the importance of performing daily checks on this type of heavy machinery before operating it. And while forklift training covers the importance of daily inspections, there are still many operators who are unaware they are violating OSHA compliance when don’t perform a thorough inspection.

“Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service, and shall not be placed in service if the examination shows any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle. Such examination shall be made at least daily. Where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift. Defects, when found, shall be immediately reported and corrected.”  OSHA Reg: 1910.178(q)(7)

Which Parts of the Forklift Should be Examined On a Daily Basis?

Not all forklift operators are experienced in using this type of heavy machinery. And when it comes to performing a daily check, OSHA doesn’t exactly clarify which specific parts of the forklift need to be examined. This is why it is so important for an employer to create a detailed pre-shift checklist to ensure all pertinent parts are being adequately inspected before the driver starts using the forklift. Forklift operators should pick up a pre-shift checklist paper each day and check off each inspection upon making it. These papers should be turned in before operation of the forklift takes place; this makes it simple to see who is performing daily inspections and who is not.

Also important to understand is that there are really two pre-shift inspections that need to take place — a visual inspection and an operational inspection. A detailed look at these inspections can be found below:

Visual inspection

  • Floor – clear path of operation
  • General condition and cleanliness
  • Charged fire extinguisher
  • Overhead – no obstructions
  • Engine oil level
  • Fuel level
  • Radiator water level
  • Forks – forks not bent; no cracks present
  • Positioning latches in good working condition
  • Carriage teeth not broken, chipped or worn
  • Bolts, nuts, guards, chains, or hydraulic hose reels not damaged, missing or loose.
  • Battery – fully charged and plug connections not loose
  • Battery electrolyte levels in cells is adequate
  • Hoses – held securely; not loose, crimped, worn or rubbing.
  • Battery secured in place by hold downs or brackets
  • Wheels and tyres – check for wear, damage, and air pressure
  • Seatbelt and/or operator restraint device – belts and restraints work properly
  • Chain anchor pins – not worn, loose or bent.
  • Fluid leaks – no damp spots or drips.
  • Overhead guard – no damaged areas.
  • Horn – working and loud

Operational inspection

  • Listen for any unusual sounds or noises
  • Foot Brake – unit stops smoothly
  • Lift Mechanism – operates smoothly all the way up and down
  • Tilt Mechanism – moves smoothly
  • Clutch and Gearshift – shifts smoothly
  • Deadman Seat Brake – holds when operator rises from seat
  • Parking Brake – holds against slight acceleration
  • Steering – moves smoothly
  • Dash Control Panel – all lights and gauges are operational
  • Cylinders and Hoses – not leaking after above checks

There are many different types and styles of forklifts, so inspections will vary depending on the type of forklift being used as well as the attachments being used. A daily inspection should take place once to twice a day. Each driver on each shift should perform an inspection, so it may take place three times a day. A more thorough inspection should be performed once every six months, with necessary maintenance being performed as needed. It is important for thorough inspections and all maintenance tasks to be performed by a highly-trained individual who has many years of experience in working on forklifts.

Nearly half of all forklift accidents take place in the manufacturing industry. About 24 percent take place in the construction industry, while the remaining occurs in the transportation, retail trade, mining, and wholesale trades industries. Statistics show, however, that proper forklift operational training can reduce accidents by as much as 70 percent. With this in mind, it is pertinent that you provide all forklift operators with proper training, which should include a thorough overview of daily inspections to perform before operating this type of heavy machinery.