In his presentation to the attendees of the 2007 National Safety Council Congress and Expo, Richard Fairfax, the Director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, revealed the agency’s list of top 10 violations for the year. Ranking number six on that list, with 2,577 violations cited, was powered industrial trucks, the category that includes forklifts.
The number of citations OSHA issues in this category is indicative of just how serious a problem the safe handling of powered industrial trucks like forklifts is. The agency estimates that forklift accidents account for 100 fatalities and more than 36,000 injuries annually in the United States. They are the second largest cause of fatalities in the workplace. Proper forklift handling begins with the operator performing a daily inspection. If the forklift is in use throughout the entire workday, then all operators are required to perform an inspection before beginning their shift.
The inspection consists of two parts:
1. The visual check. This is sometimes referred to as the “circle” check, because the operator is required to make a complete circle around the vehicle to complete the inspection. The following items are to be inspected during the visual check:
- Floor is clear of objects.
- No obstructions are overhead.
- Objects that must be avoided as the operator drives away.
- Fire extinguisher is present and charged.
- Engine oil, fuel, and radiator water are at the correct levels.
- Battery is fully charged. Also check that there are no exposed wires, no loose battery plug connections, no clogged vent caps, the electrolyte levels in the cells are correct, and the brackets keep the battery securely in place.
- Bolts, nuts, guards, chains, or hydraulic hose reels aren’t damaged, missing or loose.
- Wheels and tires aren’t worn or damaged, and their air pressure is at the correct level.
- Forks aren’t bent or cracked, positioning latches are in good working condition, and carriage teeth aren’t broken, chipped or worn.
- Chain anchor pins aren’t worn, loose or bent.
- Fluid leaks aren’t present.
- Hoses aren’t loose, crimped, worn or rubbing.
- Horn is working and loud enough to be heard.
- Headlights and warning lights are operational.
2. The seat check. This is performed while the operator is behind the wheel, but before the vehicle has been started:
- Foot brake holds, and the vehicle stops smoothly.
- Parking brake holds against slight acceleration.
- Deadman seat brake holds when operator gets up from the seat.
- Clutch and gearshift operate smoothly with no jumping or jerking.
- Dash control panel is operational.
- Steering moves smoothly.
- Lift mechanism operates smoothly.
- Tilt mechanism moves smoothly, and holds firm.
- Cylinders and Hoses aren’t leaking after performing the previous checks.
- No unusual sounds or noises are present.
If the operator identifies any problems during either of the two checks, they should immediately report them to the shift supervisor.