Driving a forklift has more complications than driving an ordinary vehicle. Once you have the proper training to operate a forklift, it will still take a focus on safety – and lots of practice.
Here are some tips for forklift operators that will help keep your skills sharp.
1) Wear safety gear
When you’re operating a forklift, choose to wear clothing that’s on the looser side rather than the tighter side. Wearing uncomfortable clothes during a long shift can be distracting. Bright or reflective clothing, such as a high-visibility vest, will also alert those around you that machinery is in use.
Wearing long pants instead of shorts will give your legs extra protection. Snug-fitting gloves will both protect your hands (especially if you’re working outdoors or in a refrigerated warehouse) and prevent oils or grease from transferring to the forklift controls.
2) Inspect the machine
Before you operate any forklift, always inspect it. This will help prevent accidents and alert you if any safety items are damaged or missing.
Be sure to check the forklift’s fluid levels, tire condition, safety decals, and back-up alarm. Also check for any leaks, cracks, or visible damage or defects.
3) Check foot and vehicle traffic
One of the most common forklift accidents is negligence by the operator. That’s why it’s important to be aware of how many workers are on the warehouse or factory floor as well as check for vehicle traffic.
Always keep your eyes focused in front of you, and constantly scan the work area for hazards.
4) Stay alert
Similar to driving a car, always assume that the people and vehicles around you will move unpredictably. Keep your distance as much as possible and drive conservatively. Also communicate with your coworkers, telling them where you are and what you’re planning to do while operating the forklift.
It’s also important to minimize distractions. Keep your hands free at all times and don’t use any electronic devices while operating the equipment.
5) When in doubt, ask
If you don’t feel comfortable carrying a load or maneuvering a forklift into a tight space, don’t be afraid to say so. It’s better to ask for help than to cause an accident.
Also, there’s no such thing as too much training. Even after you get forklift certified, watch other forklift operators for tips and best practices, and never hesitate to ask questions.