Did you know more than 200 forklift-related injuries occur every day in the United States? Powered industrial trucks make speedy material handling possible and have been a fixture in warehouses for decades. There are dozens of standards and regulations regarding the operation of a forklift and even more safe driving tips from the experts, but what about parking? Unless the forklift has been properly parked and secured, it is a danger to both the operator and those working in the area.
Workers should be trained on the proper procedures for safely parking a forklift. They should understand that forklifts must be parked on a level surface or otherwise have their wheels chocked. Unless the operator is planning on staying within 25 feet of the forklift, employees must fully lower the forks, neutralize the controls, shut off power, and set the parking brake when leaving a forklift unattended.
While training is important, there are several measures an employer can take to ensure safety:
- Post ‘No Parking’ Signs: Parked forklifts should not be blocking pedestrian routes, fire lanes, doorways, or access to first aid stations and eyewash stations. Additionally, forklifts should not be parked too close to refueling areas or anywhere near a source of heat/open flames. Install ‘No Parking’ signs or use ‘No Parking’ floor signs to caution operators.
- Create Parking Spots: You don’t need a parking lot to designate forklift parking spots! Designate an authorized area away from ignition sources, fire aisles, and entrances/exits and simply install industrial floor tape to assign each power industrial truck a place to park that is safe for both operators and pedestrians.
- Hang Up Reminders: Even the most well-trained operators can forget to complete procedures! Post safety signs to remind workers to lower forks all the way to the ground, set their parking brake, and turn off their engine before dismounting the forklift. In designated refueling areas, post “No Smoking” and PPE-required signs as reminder of safe fueling practices.
- Route pedestrians around parking: Keep the forklift parking area as far as possible from pathways and pedestrian walkways as possible. If people will have to walk by the forklift parking area regardless, use floor tape or footprint sticker to designate safe walking lanes.
After parking their forklift, operators should check their battery life and fuel levels. A full charging cycle should last one full workday; to prevent battery damage, forklift batteries should be charged right when it hits the red zone indicating only 20% charge is remaining and should be charged during breaks or more than once a day. If a forklift needs to be refueled, employees must follow the safe parking procedures from above at the designated refueling location.
Safe forklift operation comes from a safe workplace. All forklifts should be free of defective or missing parts maintained through daily checks and preventative maintenance, and all operators should be competent and qualified through periodic training sessions and certification. Combining industry requirements with a leadership focused on safety will help keep experienced operators, new drivers, facility visitors, pedestrians, and workers all safe in the same space.
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