Four Essentials of a Safe Forklift Fleet

There are plenty of simple, small things you can do to improve forklift safety in your facility. These include keeping the floor clean, installing mirrors at the ends of your aisles and prominently displaying safety posters. We have identified five best practices within companies that take forklift safety to the next level.  They are:

  1. Operator and Pedestrian Training – When we say training, we mean true training. A one-day class and a 10-minute hands-on review will not suffice if your goal is to make your forklift fleet a truly safe one. In addition to initial training and refresher training, you must be sure you re-train staff any time you introduce a different piece of equipment, if an operator is re-assigned or if your operation or facility undergoes any significant changes.  In addition to operator training, you should ensure the safety of all your employees and guests by providing training to every employee about how lift equipment operates, the inherent dangers of being around them and how to conduct themselves in a facility with this equipment.
  2. Utilize available safety equipment – Ensuring that all your lift equipment and facility is equipped with up-to-date and working safety functions will go a long way in creating awareness of the presence of lift equipment. Back-up alarms, horns, lights (front and rear combo) and strobes are the hallmarks of forklifts that are easily seen and heard. In addition, be sure to ask your forklift provider about available optional safety equipment.
  3. Planned maintenance – A robust planned maintenance program will catch small maintenance issues before they blossom into giant repair headaches. This will also dramatically reduce potential accidents, making your facility a safer place to work. Your planned maintenance program should be developed based on how your forklifts are utilized, your manufacturers recommendations and should be carried out by a professional, trained staff of forklift technicians.
  4. Regular Inspections – We recommend two types of inspections. The first, as required by OSHA, are daily inspections and are a must for any company. Your operators must be trained to perform accurate and thorough inspections of both Internal Combustion (IC) forklifts, electric forklifts, and any other type of lifting equipment you operate. Damage from previous operations can occur without the operator knowing it, and failure of major components can lead to serious injury, product loss and facility damage. In addition, putting your forklift fleet on a regular service cycle or Planned Maintenance Program, performed by lift truck professionals. This is the key to achieving maximum safety, up-time and productivity.

The benefits of a safe forklift fleet go far beyond reducing injuries. They include:

  • Lower Costs – Having safe forklift operators and providing a safe operating environment, like having safe automobile drivers and better roads, will reduce your operating costs. The frequently inspected equipment will operate within normal guidelines and minor service issues won’t blossom into giant repair headaches.
  • Improved Productivity – Safe operators in a safe environment will be more productive, since down time is reduced as a result of sound equipment and reduced operator and pedestrian accidents.
  • Reduced Insurance and Workers Compensation – A safe work environment with well-trained operators will likely result in lower insurance rates and workers’ compensation in injury-related claims.

Forklift safety is no accident. Taking these measures puts you on the path to creating a safe and productive work environment for your employees.  An investment in safety and productivity adds to your company’s long-term bottom line and benefits those who operate on and around forklifts.

Have a question about forklift safety, training, service or planned maintenance? Please contact your local Cal-Lift branch, or give us a call at 800-322-5438.

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OSHA Announces Top 10 Violations for 2016

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, OSHA inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and OSHA’s top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures.

OSHA says far too many workers are killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding (including lift trucks) violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Their list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. They urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, OSHA has released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

OSHA has many additional resources, including a wealth of information on their website and their free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Purchase Price vs. Total Ownership Cost

When you are purchasing a piece of equipment, you obtain competitive quotes, verify specifications and generate a purchase order. For that matter, just about anything we purchase goes through the same process. However, there is much more to purchasing forklifts and other material handling equipment. We have found, over the years, that often there are variables that can greatly affect the total cost of ownership of anything, be it an automobile, forklift or a giant cargo container.

The price you pay for your piece of equipment, by most accounts, reflects about 10% of the total ownership costs of that piece of equipment. This leaves 90% of your total costs up in the air. Depending on many variables, you could pay much more for the equipment than you needed to, or much less. These variables include:

Performance and Reliability of Equipment – Comparing cost per hour to operate can give you a good idea of what competing pieces of equipment will cost you over their useful life. When comparing cost per hour to operate, you should be sure you’re comparing similar models under similar circumstances. A lift truck operating 1500 hours a year for a light weight product manufacturer will cost far less over its lifetime than the same lift truck operating at a recycling facility.  This cost should reflect general maintenance requirements as well as fuel costs.

Fuel Consumption – While this is often a part of performance and cost per hour, knowing the fuel costs for each comparing brand and calculating total costs over the life of the equipment can sometimes be quite an eye-opener. In addition, what are your fuel alternatives? Can you use electric models? Thinking outside the box may result in lower costs to power your forklift and other lift equipment.

Specifications vs. Operations – It is rare that two 5,000-lb-capacity forklifts from competing brands will have similar specifications. Knowing what your facility will accommodate and comparing that with each model will give you insight into how each model will perform, given your operating parameters. Factors include: aisle width vs. turn radius, draw bar pull, suspension and ergonomics compared to your floor condition, indoor/outdoor use and ceiling height/rack height vs. max lift height. You will also want to compare features between brands to ensure that each lift truck model is equipped with the proper components to meet your operational requirements. For example: Can it operate properly inside your ice cream freezer?

Ergonomics – A comfortable and smooth-running piece of equipment will provide you with increased productivity. These are costs hidden in equipment that are quite real in daily operating conditions. How much time and research and development, does each brand put into the comfort and ease of use of their equipment? Happy, comfortable operators are simply more productive.

Safety – Never underestimate the safety features of your equipment. What equipment is being specified and what equipment is optional from each manufacturer is very important to know.  Reducing your accident costs or product/facility damage can make a big difference in your total fleet operational expenses.

Useful Life – Finally, how many hours can you expect from each piece of equipment until the cost to operate becomes cost-prohibitive? This can vary widely depending upon brand and model. But having some qualitative and quantitative information on hand, if possible, will help you make a better decision about the total cost of operating each unit/model.

There are many factors beyond price tag or lease rate that can help you make good decisions about the equipment you purchase. Having a partner that listens, evaluates and fulfills your needs is essential in building a fleet that is most productive and less costly in the long run. Contact us at 800-322-5438 to speak to one of our material handling professionals about the right material handling equipment for your operation.