10 Simple Tips for Safe Forklift Operation

Keep employees safe and business moving forward by reinforcing forklift safety procedures

By Jeremy Wishart.

For employees throughout the material handling industry, safety is paramount. Working with and around heavy machinery on the job, employees in the industry are face-to-face with potential hazards on a daily basis. In order to keep employees safe, and ultimately, keep material moving, it’s critical that forklift operators comply with safety procedures.

Here are 10 simple tips to help ensure safe forklift operation:

  1. Inspect and maintain the forklift before use. Operators should complete a routine check of the equipment before driving them. Notify management with any damages or problems. For facilities using propane forklifts, the propane supplier will inspect cylinders each time they’re exchanged and remove any damaged cylinders from service. Cylinders that show signs of wear or leaks shouldn’t be used and may need to be replaced, even if within the cylinder’s requalification date.
  2. Buckle up. It’s important for operators to buckle up while in a sit-down forklift, as overturned forklifts are a leading cause of forklift-related accidents and fatalities. Buckling up can save operators from getting crushed by a machine’s overhead guard or roll cage.
  3. Wear appropriate personal protective clothing. When working around forklifts, hard hats, protective footwear, and high-visibility clothing are recommended.
  4. Stop the forklift before raising or lowering forks. Ensuring the forklift is stopped before moving forks can greatly reduce the risk of tipping the machine or dropping the load.
  5. Keep loads within the weight capacity of the forklift. By exceeding a forklift’s weight capacity, employees can greatly increase the risk of tipping the machine by unbalancing the forklift’s center of gravity.
  6. Slow down and sound the horn in situations where vision is obstructed. Operators should also use caution on grades or ramps. Operators should use the horn to alert pedestrians or other forklift operators of their location to avoid unnecessary collision. Take corners and turns slowly to minimize the risk of tipping. Changes in direction or any stops should be made gradually and slowly, too.
  7. Ensure the pressure relief valve on the propane cylinder is secure and point away from locating pin. Check that the pressure relief valve fitting is roughly 180 degrees from the forklift’s locating pin.
  8. Set parking brake, lower forks, and set controls to neutral when finished. By safely parking the machine, employees reduce the risk of unintended movement when a forklift is left unattended. If parked on an incline, employees can further secure the machine with wheel blocks.
  9. Propane cylinders should be stored in a secure cage or rack. Propane forklift cylinders can be stored horizontally with the pressure relief valves in the uppermost position, and operators should use proper lifting techniques when removing them from storage and placing onto the machine. The facility’s propane supplier can help determine the best location for the cylinder storage rack or cage, which is generally located away from exits, stairways, entryways, and high-traffic areas.
  10. When not in use, close service valves on propane cylinders. By doing so, operators help prevent unintended fuel loss, and potential injury around internal combustion engines.

By following the proper forklift safety procedures while behind the wheel, operators can protect themselves and coworkers, prevent time-loss accidents, and keep business moving forward.

Ninety percent of Class 4 and 5 operators are using forklifts powered by propane for a variety of reasons, according to data from the Propane Education & Research Council. For the many facilities already using propane-powered forklifts specifically, they have the benefit of a safety resource already at their fingertips — their local propane supplier. Find out more about the benefits of propane-powered forklifts, and forklift safety at Propane.com/SafetyFirst.

Jeremy Wishart is director of off-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at jeremy.wishart@propane.com.


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