Forklifts are a vital tool and form part of the backbone of the industry. Forklifts are known for their exceptional lifting ability, despite their size. Some of the strongest can lift loads of up to 70,000 lbs. As the UK’s industry has expanded, so too has the use of forklifts. As of 2018, there are approximately 35,000 forklifts in operation in the UK – almost double that of the previous survey in 2009.

Ensure Drivers are Trained and Licensed

Because of their strength, forklifts are potentially extremely dangerous when not operated correctly. So if you are looking at how to improve health and safety at work, your forklifts and their operators are an excellent start.

Define Pedestrian Zones

Although according to UK law a superior can legally assign an employee to drive a forklift without a license, most accidents are caused by operators with inadequate training or licensing. Therefore, while you can assign an employee to a forklift, you will be responsible for any accidents. This will result in heavy fines by the UK HSE.

A forklift is akin to a road vehicle, and although they don’t move very quickly, they move quickly enough to cause severe damage to a person if hit by one. And that’s not including the life-changing damage a stray fork could do.

Therefore, it is common practice to outline clear zones between pedestrians and moving vehicles. Safe walkways need to be marked that keep your warehouse pedestrians out of a forklift’s path. Additionally, signs and markers should be installed so that pedestrians know that they are walking into forklift areas and vice versa. At 15mph with a heavy load, a forklift moves fast enough to kill someone.

Ensure Loads are Always Secured

The main job of a forklift is to lift heavy loads. However, heavy loads can become unstable, and delicate precision is required. A skilled operator can lift heavy loads with ease; however, they cannot fight the laws of physics.

Therefore, it is vital that you ensure all loads are fixed properly. Basic operation procedures apply, such as ensuring the load is tilted back and not overloaded. However, you should also implement additional safety measures. For example, operators should evenly distribute a load over both forks, and ropes and straps should be used when necessary to secure the palettes.

Perform Regular Maintenance and Inspections

As with all machinery, adequate maintenance and inspections are crucial. A forklift isn’t much different from a road vehicle, and many of the same inspection techniques apply. For example, for tire tread, operators should check acceleration and braking before each use.

However, there are differences between a forklift and a car. Drivers could also check the lifting control systems for correct operation before each use. You don’t want to be stuck with a heavy load anywhere. Or even worse, a load falling off while being lifted. In addition, a machine’s warning devices need to be checked to avoid accidental collision with another machine or a pedestrian.

Maintain High Visibility

Forklifts are small vehicles, but they move relatively quickly in an enclosed space and can easily be missed by someone walking into their path or another oncoming machine. So it is essential that they should be as visible and as audible as possible.

First, you should issue all operators with quality hi-vis jackets. High-vis jackets reflect light and, since their introduction, have reduced workplace accidents significantly. Additionally, it might help to affix a strobe light to a forklift. Industrial orange strobe lights will substantially increase the visibility of a machine and warn others that it is near.