Schott Mauss & Associates, PLLC
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Forklift operations 101: Avoiding injuries

Whether you work in construction, retail or a warehouse, chances are good that your duties may include operating a forklift. Even if that is not within your job description, you probably work around those who do operate these smaller versions of heavy machinery.

But even though forklifts are small in comparison to cranes or bulldozers, make no mistake — they can still cause injuries and fatalities to the hapless operators and their co-workers. Below are some safety tips for working with and around forklifts.

Never underestimate the danger of forklifts

Because of their relative small size, some workers may attempt to horseplay when operating forklifts. Hitching rides on the forks or overloading the cab is never safe. Not only can it cause a catastrophic accident, it is hard on the machinery and you can face censure from your employer for operating a forklift unsafely.

Only trained operators at the controls

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, forklifts must be operated only by employees who have received the necessary training in forklift safety.

Inspect your forklift first

Forklift operators should begin their shifts by inspecting their machinery. The warning systems, brakes and steering should all be in good working order, as well as the masts, tires and hydraulic system. Any deviations from the norm should be reported immediately and the machine taken out of service for repairs.

Wearing proper gear is important

If you are at the controls of a forklift, you should have on your hardhat, safety footwear and a jacket that is highly visible. Also, don't wear loosely fitting clothing that could easily get caught in the moving parts of the forklift.

Remember to set the brake

Each time that you load or unload materials from the forklift, you must set the brakes. Otherwise, the forklift could start to roll and endanger not just the operator but all in the vicinity.

Carry loads low

Top-heavy loads and overstacked materials can cause deadly tip-over accidents. Also, be aware of the dangers you face when turning with a load. Forklifts are not built for speed, and moving too rapidly when loaded down can cause tip-overs during turns around blind corners. You always want to keep the center of gravity on the forklift at an even keel.

Give forklifts the right-of-way

If you see an operator approaching in a forklift, get out of their path. Especially if they are loaded down, they may not be able to take appropriate evasive action to avoid you.

Seek help if you are injured in a forklift accident

Those who suffer injuries from a forklift accident in the workplace can file claims for workers' compensation. To avoid a denial, it is often beneficial to seek legal guidance before filing your claim.

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