Employers work hard to avoid the costs, damages and injuries that may occur with warehouse and lift truck equipment operations, and to meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration.) In spite of this, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigates lift truck-related injuries and deaths each year, indicating that many workers and employers may still not be aware of some of the risks, or are not following the procedures set forth in OSHA standards, consensus standards, or equipment manufacturer’s guidelines.
“Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or lift trucks, occur in U.S. workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, they are struck by a lift truck, or when they fall while on elevated pallets and tines. Most incidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and machinery. Unfortunately, most employee injuries and property damage can be attributed to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety-rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate training.”
As a quick safety reminder, we offer the following tips and guidelines to keep your employees safe and your costs down.
- Make sure all employees have up-to-date, equipmentspecific training and warehouse safety training. Lack of training can turn a 10-second job into a $10,000+ nightmare.
- Take the time to perform pre-shift inspections. This is the time to identify any potential leaks or other hazards. Never cut corners on safety.
- Always wear the appropriate clothing when at work in a warehouse. In addition to your company’s dress code, wear protective footwear, not athletic shoes. Remove rings and jewelry and keep long hair tied back. Jewelry and long hair can become caught in machinery or equipment, causing injury.
- Be aware! Pedestrians: watch out for vehicles, especially at doorways and ends of aisles.
- Equipment operators: watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles, again particularly around aisles. When backing up, watch the direction of travel for potential hazards (people, equipment, etc.), not just the load.
- Lift truck operators: use your horn! It is better to make too much noise than not enough. In a busy warehouse, back-up horns can become “normal” background noise, lulling other workers into false comfort zones. Wake them up with that horn!
- Always use the right equipment for the job, especially when picking up special or odd-shaped loads.
- Use equipment for its intended use. Make sure wheels are completely locked on rolling ladders. Maintain your center of gravity when on a ladder; do no lean past your belt buckle. Forklifts, pallet jacks and hand trucks are not designed for passengers. Remember safety is everyone’s job.
- •tack loads properly to prevent them from falling on equipment or pedestrians.
- Fire prevention is a daily activity. Do not stack merchandise near sprinkler heads. Get the proper training for handling fire hoses and extinguishers. Memorize the PASS technique for fire extinguishers. Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle. Squeeze the trigger. Sweep from side-to-side. Never take chances with fires. Always call the fire department in case of fire.
- If high-stacking is required, select a lift truck that can stack high and turn sharply in aisles with no loss of stability.
- Select lift trucks that can be adapted to the tasks at hand, and to the personal driving style of the operator. Can the lift truck be adjusted for driver skill level? Make sure operators have visibility in both travel directions without extreme contortions.
- Select lift trucks in which all the controls are easily accessible and easy to operate, allowing the average driver to work for eight hours without tiring or being subjected to stresses that may lead to strain injuries.
- Select lift trucks that provide an integrated safety switch in the floor, flashing warning lights, and back-up alarms and beepers. Consider equipment that provides enclosures or railings, not just harnesses.
- Select lift trucks with platforms that cannot be raised and lowered without the driver on board.
- Consider selecting lift trucks that provide the newer PIN code systems, which prevent unauthorized use of the truck. Note that it is a violation of Federal law for anyone UNDER 18 years of age to operate a lift truck, or for anyone OVER 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified to do so. Note that is the EMPLOYER’S responsibility to recertify previously certified operators if they are working in a new environment or location.
- To help prevent damage, select lift trucks with reinforced bumpers.
- ‘Walk-behind’ lift trucks with two or more inches of ground clearance help to prevent foot injuries.
Source: Larry Couperthwaite, president, Atlet USA & Elizabeth McClatchy, president, Safety Center.