Powered industrial trucks, commonly referred to as forklifts, are used to maneuver objects on pallets, containers, boxes, or crates. Forklifts are crucial tools used in the daily operation of most businesses. Forklifts can be driven and propelled via electricity (battery) or gas. Because of the dangers presented by forklifts, it is vital to check the systems and mechanisms at the beginning of each shift to decrease the risk of injury to yourself and others.
The importance of forklift inspections
There are several safety precautions that need to be taken to create a safe work environment. Checking heavy machinery, like forklifts, is undeniably important. A well-maintained forklift is essential to avoiding the dire consequences resulting from lazy and careless inspections. If inspections are not conducted thoroughly, the risk of accidents, injury, and death increases significantly. Frequent use of anything can cause complacency. Therefore, having a checklist that forces you to carefully inspect the vehicle is important.
Examples of forklift checklists
Engine Off Checks (components to check prior to starting the engine):
- Leaks – fuel, hydraulic oil, engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and brake fluid
- Tires – air pressure and condition
- Forks – check condition
- Propane tank – check for damage and corrosion
- Battery – check charge level
- Mast chains/cables- visually inspect
- Misc- check engine belts, seatbelt, guards, and hood latch
Engine On Checks (components to check after engine has been started):
- Accelerator/service brake/parking brake – make sure they function efficiently
- Drive control/fork control – check to make sure steering and fork operate smoothly
- Horn and lights – check to make sure they function
- Gauges – check oil pressure meter, fuel level, temperature, ammeter
Electric forklifts have a battery restraint system that must be checked for necessary adjustments and fastening. However, the checklist for electric forklifts is essentially no different than checklists for gas forklifts. A good rule of thumb is to check all exterior, interior, engine, and safety components of a forklift. A qualified mechanic should fix all problems.
OSHA requirements and recommended practices for forklift inspections
OSHA requires forklifts to be inspected daily. It also requires employers to provide operators training for vehicle operation, inspection, and maintenance. Businesses are required to create and enforce a written program that includes but is not limited to:
- Forklift operator training – Requires drivers to be trained before operating.
- Licensure – Operators must be licensed.
- Review and renewal program – Operators must be over 18 and recertified every three years.
Compliance to these required OSHA practices is key to avoiding fines and headaches that come with poor operation and upkeep of forklifts and other heavy machinery.
OSHA estimates serious and non-serious injuries combine for nearly 100,000 forklift accidents yearly. A substantial number of these accidents can be prevented. Safety should start before the engine does. Always follow the checklist and always look for potential hazards. A proactive and thorough approach to safety is literally lifesaving.