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Tips on how to safely operate a forklift

Forklifts are large, heavy and dangerous pieces of equipment that are used to lift, carry or stack materials. Many injuries occur when a person on foot is struck or run over by a forklift, especially when the equipment is going in reverse, because the victim was not seen by the driver. Accidents can be prevented through proper training and vigilant attention to safety measures.

Thorough equipment checks

OSHA regulates the use of forklifts. Your employer must ensure that this equipment can be operated safely and in accordance with the law. However, as a forklift driver, you should also make safe operation a priority by inspecting all areas of the forklift for anything that seems unusual before you start working. Check for broken hoses or wires, strange noises or peculiar odors. Report any problems you find. Do not operate the forklift unless it is in proper working condition.

Starting off

When you have finished your equipment inspection and getting under way, secure your seatbelt and look all around to make sure there are no people or obstacles in your path. Keep in mind that someone on foot may not see you, especially at a blind intersection, or even hear you coming, depending on the kind of power with which your forklift is equipped.

Travel at a speed appropriate to the area and with the forks lowered just clear of the ground. Moving slowly will give you time to react to any issues that might arise, and always be on the lookout for pedestrians.

Carrying loads

A forklift is designed to carry loads, take care to ensure that the load you pick up will not overwhelm the equipment and cause it to topple over. Be sure your load is balanced properly. Once it is positioned on the forklift, angle your blades. By having them higher in front and lower in back, gravity will hold the load to the back of your blades. Make sure that there is adequate clearance above and on both sides, that your fork arms have been firmly inserted in the load you are carrying, and that different items have been wrapped together securely.

Operating under the influence of certain medications

It's pretty obvious that you should never operate a forklift if you are under the influence of alcohol, but you should also be careful about driving a forklift if you have taken pain killers or antihistamines that cause drowsiness. Muscle relaxants may affect the speed of your reflexes and Ritalin, Adderall or any other drug that affects your judgement should never be used.

However, in the event you are involved in an accident, remember that you can contact an attorney who has experience with personal injury cases and those involving workplace accidents.

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