Safety Responsibilities of a Forklift Driver

Written by robin reichert
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Safety Responsibilities of a Forklift Driver
A forklift driver should take certain precautions to avoid accidents. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Forklift drivers have many safety responsibilities that are designed to help the driver avoid injury to him or other workers in an industrial setting. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed standards and training materials to help drivers operate a forklift in a safe manner. Following the safety standards and protocols set forth by OSHA and operating a forklift safely will help avoid industrial accidents.

Operator Restraints

Seat restraints hold the forklift driver securely in the vehicle seat, and the restraint is essential to protect the driver if the forklift overturns. An unrestrained driver can be thrown from the cab of the forklift and injured by falling boxes or pallets or crushed by the forklift.

The Illinois state OSHA strongly advises that when a forklift begins to overturn, drivers must remain in the seat. A fatal accident can occur if the driver tries to jump clear. A forklift can tip over very quickly, leaving no time to jump clear; therefore, it's essential that a forklift operator always wear a seat belt.

Unattended Forklift

A forklift operator must never leave a forklift unattended while it is running, according to the Washington state OSHA. A forklift is considered unattended if the driver cannot see it or if she is more than 25 feet from the vehicle. A forklift operator must lower the forks of the lift, set the controls to neutral, turn off the motor and set the brake before leaving a forklift unattended.

Forklifts that are parked on an incline or sloping floor must be blocked. Heavy blocks must be placed behind the wheels to prevent the forklift from rolling down the incline and potentially injuring other workers. The forks must be lowered before the driver exits the cab of the forklift even if the driver will stay within 25 feet of the vehicle.

Lifting People

Workers are never permitted to ride on or be lifted with the forks or while standing on an industrial pallet, according to OSHA. The forklift driver must prohibit any worker from hitching a ride on the forks. A specific piece of equipment must be attached to the forklift before people can be lifted or transported using a forklift. OSHA states that people should be lifted or transported only on a platform that has a rail at least 36 inches above the platform where the people will stand.

Loading and Unloading

The Washington state OSHA strongly advises the forklift driver to make sure a load is stable before trying to lift or transport it. Before a forklift driver picks up a load, he must move the forklift into a square position in front of the load. The forks must be moved to the widest possible position to ensure the load is balanced.

Once the forks are under the load, the driver must raise the load only as high as necessary to clear the ground and tilt the load back slightly for maximum stability. The most common accident when moving a load results when the stack is too high or heavy containers are on top of the load.

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