Let me start by asking a question. How many of you would always drive the speed limit if enforcement by the police was non-existent? This is the state of enforcement for forklift rules and regulations in many workplaces.
Many supervisors responsible for enforcing safe forklift operation don’t actually know all the rules of safe operation. It may have been many years since they actually drove one or they may never have operated one at all, but many have not been through their own forklift safety class in many years. How can someone properly manage operations they know little or nothing about? The answer is “They can’t.”
Even when supervisors know the rules, some are hesitant to enforce them. How many times have you seen a supervisor tell an operator to get their seatbelt on, sound their horn or just slow down? They may not like this job duty, but it is part of the job they are paid to do. Police officers may not enjoy giving out tickets, but it is their job. We had a local forklift fatality as the result of a forklift crushing him when he got off to work with the load. I am sure that it was commonplace for operators to jump off without setting the parking brake and I would bet that supervisors probably had knowledge of it, but it took the death of a 38-year old man with a family to finally get it noticed and enforced.
Here are some suggestions for those that supervise forklift operators:
- Take your own company’s forklift certification class periodically to stay up to speed with your site specific rules.
- Look for things your people are doing wrong with your forklifts. Tell them how to do it right and expect them to do it that way next time. If they continue doing it incorrectly, you must take appropriate actions. I once saw a sign that read, “Asking me to overlook a simple safety violation, would be asking me to compromise the value of your life.” How true!
- Follow through with proper discipline if people do things wrong, otherwise you become a hypocrite and will not be taken seriously on even the most important issues as a supervisor.
- Look for the things your people are doing right with your forklifts. Tell them you appreciate their hard work and skills and compliment them on their safe operations.
Written by Brian Colburn of Forklift Training Systems, a leading provider of forklift safety training and materials. Look for Forklift Training Systems at www.forklifttrainingsystems.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.