Warehouse managers and professional manufacturers know the importance of safety in the supply chain — including safety training for equipment operators. Making sure pedestrians or visitors are equally prepared to coexist alongside heavy machines is another matter, and one that’s easier for operations teams to overlook.
With that in mind, here are some tips for everybody involved in the process, from floor workers and vehicle operators to managers and other decision-makers. Forklift Safety Day falls on June 9 this year, so it’s a perfect time to study up.
Forklift Safety Tips for Pedestrians
For pedestrians, staying safe in the workplace comes down to staying grounded and engaged with your work environment. It’s also important to know how to interact with forklift, pallet truck and order picker operators when your paths cross.
Here’s what pedestrians should know about staying safe in warehouses and industrial settings:
- Be aware of your surroundings: This can’t be repeated enough. No matter how confident you are, always check and double-check before crossing a thoroughfare or entering an aisle or truck container. Use all of your senses to place yourself in a wider context and to pick out potential hazards before you cross paths.
- Know what to look for: Part two of situational awareness involves knowing what behaviors to expect from moving forklifts and other vehicles. Flashing lights indicate the vehicle is powered on, while backup alarms indicate when an operator’s vision may be compromised.
- Obey all posted traffic signs: Assuming the facility’s markings are up-to-date, there should be clearly delineated paths for pedestrians and vehicles to follow as they work. Pedestrians must obey all signage and not take shortcuts.
- Make eye contact with operators: This forklift pedestrian tip could save your life. Any time a foot path intersects with a vehicle traffic lane, all parties must come to a complete stop. Then, pedestrians must make eye contact with operators before assuming the right-of-way.
- Clean as you go: Too many avoidable accidents come about because otherwise conscientious warehouse workers leave pallets, cartons or other tools and materials unattended or in a place others don’t expect them to be. Keeping the facility clean of clutter and obstacles helps keep the whole workforce safer and vehicles on surer “footing.”
Forklift Safety Tips for Operators
Likewise, operators must also hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to safety. Here are some pedestrian safety tips focused on equipment operators:
- Know your equipment: Part of the responsibility rests on the employer when it comes to training on safe equipment operation. The rest depends on good judgment, an abundance of caution and knowing the piece of equipment inside and out. Knowing the turning radius of a forklift or its maximum lift capacity could save a life.
- Take pre-start safety checks seriously: If your employer honors OSHA requirements, its fleet of forklifts and powered trucks undergoes regular inspection. This should include a pre-start checklist for the operator, covering visual inspections of wheels, hoses, controls and other parts. Complete this checklist every time and be sure not to use a machine if you have any reason to question its condition. Damaged lift trucks are a hazard for the operator and passersby alike.
- Use safety features and equipment: Forklifts have safety features installed such as speed governors, load limits, travel arms and dead-man switches. Use these properly, and never tamper with or disengage them.
- Wear protection and appropriate clothing: Personal safety equipment like gloves, brightly colored vests and eye protection keeps operators visible to pedestrians, in control of their machines and free from distractions that might impede their vision. Staying safe means using all of the tools available, as well as dressing in appropriate clothing that won’t get caught in machinery.
- Honk at intersections: This should be second-nature for any trained forklift operator, but honking at every intersection is essential. So is making eye contact with any pedestrians in the area. Even if you think the coast is clear, there could be a hidden person or obstacle in one of your blind spots.
Forklift Safety Tips for Warehouse Managers
Frontline workers and managers have lots of opportunities to work together towards a safer workplace. Here are some top pedestrian forklift safety priorities for managers:
- Train pedestrians for forklift safety: Warehouse managers don’t need to spend tons of time on this, but they should still commit to training pedestrians on moving around near and interacting with forklifts. Their time in the warehouse will see them cross paths — so take nothing for granted and reinforce safe work and travel habits early on.
- Maintain floor markings: As mentioned earlier, pedestrians must follow all posted markings when it comes to the direction of travel and any areas that are off-limits to foot traffic. Managers should have a workflow in place for regularly inspecting these features and updating or refreshing them as often as needed.
- Consider security and LO/TO: Security features can provide an additional layer of safety when it comes to forklift fleet management. Steering wheel covers, padlocks and other lock-out/tag-out (LO/TO) devices ensure no unauthorized machine operation between or after shifts.
The Benefits of Forklift Safety in Manufacturing
Forklift Safety Day arrived this year on June 9, making this a great opportunity for warehouse managers to double-down on safety and make it even more of a priority in the coming month. Committing to situational awareness and good safety procedures and habits keeps pedestrians and operators alike safe and sound — and more confident and engaged in their work.
Megan R. Nichols is a industrial writer and blogger. She regularly publishes in magazines like Manufacturing Global, EBN Online and Industry Week. She also updates her personal blog, Schooled By Science weekly with easy to understand manufacturing and technology articles. Keep up with Megan by subscribing to her blog or following her on Twitter.