Are your forklift inspection routines putting your business at risk?

What should forklift operators check, and when?

While most forklift accidents are caused by the operator (they get complacent about safety, and push boundaries to speed up work processes), many could be avoided with a daily forklift inspection. In this blog post, you’ll learn what your forklift operators should be checking before they begin work and at the end of a shift.

How bad can a forklift accident be?

It’s easy to assume that a forklift accident will, at worst, lead to damaged goods, or perhaps a mechanical problem with the forklift. Unfortunately, statistics show otherwise. According to Safe Work Australia, since 2003 there have been 61 deaths caused by forklift accidents in Australia.

In addition to these fatalities, there are regularly more than 900 serious injury claims each year, because of forklifts. A serious injury claim is one that causes one week or more of lost time from work. The industries where most serious injury claims are made are manufacturing, followed by transport, postal, warehousing, wholesale, and then retail.

And get this: the average time off work as a result of incidents with forklifts in 2014/15 was 5.4 weeks, at an average cost of $11,043 per claim.

Australian industry is losing, on average, around 4,860 weeks of productive work, just because of forklift accidents!

How can you reduce forklift accidents in the workplace?

To reduce the number of accidents, injury claims, and fatalities caused by forklifts in the workplace, it is, of course, essential that forklift operators observe forklift handling rules always. Regular training and retraining may be necessary, and supervisors should emphasise safety over speed.

However, over and above operator error, many injuries and fatalities could be avoided by ensuring equipment is properly inspected before and after the operation. Unfortunately, forklift inspections are often neglected, with sometimes catastrophic results.

When should forklift inspections be carried out?

Operators should certainly inspect their forklifts before starting work. Yes, the warehouse may be busy, and the forklift operator will get the blame for holding up loading and delivery. Truck drivers are waiting, and their time is running down. But none of this is an excuse for shoddy safety routine.

Checking the forklift at the beginning of the shift should be the operator’s first priority. It could save their life and the lives of others. When the shift is finished, the operator should inspect the tyres again.

There is no excuse for not inspecting your forklift before a shift begins or when a shift ends. Forklift operators, supervisors, and the business should ask themselves what is more important – avoiding a ten-minute delay in delivery, or avoiding a death or serious injury on site?

What if problems are found?

If a problem is uncovered during a forklift inspection, there is only one course of action to take: pull the forklift from service. Get the problem fixed. If the forklift’s tyres are the issue, have them repaired onsite. The forklift should not be put back into operation until it is deemed safe to do so.

What should be on your forklift inspection checklist?

Each operator should have a pre-operational checklist to complete. Forklift manufacturers may supply examples, but you may need to update and modify according to your actual operations. A simple tick list of checks will ensure the operator carries out a thorough inspection, and that your operation is a safer place to work.

Here are a few suggestions as to what should be checked at every inspection:

  • Check oil, water, and hydraulic fluid level
  • Check and test mast chains
  • Make sure that the load backrest functions properly
  • Check finger guards
  • Test seatbelts, horns, and lights
  • Check the brakes and steering
  • Look for visible signs of forklift damage
  • Examine electrics, including cables, wires, and batteries
  • Take notice of coolant levels, and ensure air filters and radiators are in good condition
  • Check the condition of forklift tyres – look for cuts and gouges
  • Check forklift tyre pressures

Also, the operator’s manual and log book should be with the vehicle always.

Check your forklifts and stop costly accidents occurring

It’s simple really. Any accident at work will harm your business. There will always be a cost involved. At best, this may be a few hours of work lost. At worst, an employee or workplace visitor could pay with their life. Your company’s reputation will suffer, as will its finances.

Ensuring that your forklift operators carry out pre-shift checks and complete a comprehensive checklist will help to reduce accidents in your workplace – all of which are avoidable.

On top of the obvious safety issues, regular checks will mean problems are discovered early. Downtime will be reduced, as will maintenance costs: caught early, small maintenance issues shouldn’t become large and expensive mechanical problems.

To find out about our comprehensive tyre services for forklift operators in Queensland, contact Darra Tyres today.

Keeping your business and fleet safely on the road,

Kevin Wood

About the Author

Kevin has been at the forefront of the tyre industry for over 20 years. Kevin's speciality is in industrial and commercial tyres including the management and upkeep of fleets. Kevin has worked with vehicles his whole career from painting, mechanical, suspension and panel beating he has also spent time in the Australia Army as a driver. He has driven all size of vehicles throughout his career so understands the demands placed on drivers.