When it comes to warehouse safety, adhering to the Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA) requirements is key: Every company that uses industrial equipment must certify that its employees have been trained in the safe operation of industrial equipment. OSHA also specifies exactly what kinds of things must be covered in that training.
But there are times when companies adopt heavy equipment handling safety policies that go above and beyond what OSHA requires – or that are simply more individualized.
Case in point: Our company has a “glad hands and cones policy” that covers safe forklift operation for facilities that don’t have dock locks. The policy is administered and “controlled” by the industrial equipment operator who is loading or unloading the trailer.
That means before the operator loads or unloads an assigned trailer, he goes outside and makes sure the wheels are chocked, he places an orange cone in front of the tractor or the trailer. He then places a glad-hand lock on the trailer air hose. The glad-hand lock prevents the truck driver from hooking up to his air hose and releasing his brakes to pull away.
The key component is only the individual equipment operator loading or unloading the trailer can place and remove the cone and the glad hand. As long as the equipment operator controls the process, no one else can accidently release the load or the trailer when the operator is loading or unloading the trailer.
If your company has such policies, don’t forget to incorporate them into your equipment training. Otherwise, your forklift operators may not realize they exist – or understand what they need to do in order to comply with them.
On a related note, make sure your company also conveys relevant safety policies to any truck drivers who routinely deliver to your facility, because their actions also can have an impact on forklift operator safety when trailers are being loaded or unloaded.
Considering The Context
Just as there’s a huge difference between how a truck driver might handle driving on an interstate vs. a rural roadway, there can be significant variations in how forklifts need to be operated within each individual facility.
Each forklift has risks that are specific to its location, processes and products handled. And the best training programs acknowledge this by covering specifics such as:
- How high can product safely be stacked in racks?
- In order to avoid product damage, what are each product’s safe clamping parameters? (This refers to an attachment on a forklift that clamps the side of palletless product to lift and move the product. If too much pressure is applied from the clamps or the product is clamped at the incorrect place on the load, the merchandise will be damaged.)
- When should forklift operators stop in a facility, and when is it okay to simply yield?
- Where should equipment be parked at the end of the day?
- Are there specific traffic lanes within the facility that need to be observed?
- What sorts of obstructions exist in the facility that might hinder visibility?
Making Non-Operators Take Personal Responsibility
It’s easy to assume that all forklift injuries happen to operators. But forklift pedestrian injuries are common, and sometimes it’s the pedestrian rather than the operator who’s to blame.
That’s why all of your company’s warehouse employees – and not just your forklift operators – should receive frequent forklift safety training. Remind them often that the forklifts they routinely work around weigh more than the cars they drove to work that morning.
If workers aren’t reminded of the equipment dangers, they may tempted to walk out of a warehouse aisle without looking both ways to see if a forklift is coming. Or they might walk in front of a moving forklift without giving it a second thought.
And never let distribution center employees forget that they have an obligation to take some responsibility for their own protection–even if they’re working right next to operators who’ve been professionally trained. It could make the difference between them going home from work or going to the hospital.
In order for an organization to truly achieve optimal forklift safety, everyone at the company must believe in its importance and be held accountable for supporting it. On occasion, this may mean that your company has to educate some folks about the value that greater safety will bring to the table.
Or it may require putting some safety measures into various employees’ bonus or incentive packages. Remember that holding workers accountable for safety doesn’t just mean slapping their hands when they violate safety procedures. It also means rewarding them when go the extra mile to make a safe work environment a reality.
Most important of all, it means constantly reminding people that safety is not just a forklift driver’s job or a safety committee member’s job. It’s everyone’s job.
Dixie Brock is the director of national warehouse safety for APL Logistics.