Forklift Safety When Elevating Personnel
It shouldn’t be a surprise that forklifts were not designed to lift people and workers to perform tasks at elevated heights. However, it has become a trend in the construction industry for workers to use forklifts to lift up personnel to reach top storage racks, light fixtures, elevated motors, or other tasks and items that would normally be out of reach while standing on the ground. Workers see this as a quicker alternative than going to the storage closet and getting a ladder and it has become an all too common practice on job sites across the country. Just because using forklifts to elevate personnel is seen as the quickest way to accomplish a specific task, does not mean that it is the safest way. Too many injuries occur each year involving workers and other personnel falling off of forklifts while it was being raised, or while it was standing still and the employee was performing the work. Forklift safety is something that needs to be taken more seriously in the workplace for a number of reasons, but in this article we will focus on the elevated personnel problem. If you want additional information on forklift safety in general, you can read our Forklift Safety Training article.
Since it has become apparent that it would not be possible to completely eliminate this problem, regulatory committees and other interested parties have developed a “safe” method for workers to use forklifts for elevation. Keep in mind that we are not encouraging forklifts to be used to elevate personnel, but if it is deemed absolutely necessary and will be the most effective way to complete the job, then you must adhere to the following guidelines before performing the work.
- There must be a work platform firmly and securely attached to the lifting carriage. The platform must have guardrails or something else that will serve the same basic function of preventing workers from falling off the edge of the platform.
- The forklift need to be designed so that, in the event of an emergency or system failure, the lifting mechanism will not drop faster than 135 feet per minute. This means the hydraulic system will need to be engineered the right way.
- When workers are on the platform, there must be an operator manning the lift equipment while the workers are performing the job. NEVER leave a forklift with workers on the platform unattended. This operator also needs to be certified in forklift safety.
- When raising and lowering the platform, the operator must be in the correct operating position.
- If the platform has been raised to a height higher than 4 feet, then the forklift must not move. If you absolutely, positively have to move the forklift while it is above 4 feet, inch the forklift along at the slowest possible speed. Going any faster could cause workers on the platform to lose their balance and fall off the edge. This obviously leads to consequences that you do not want.
- When working on the platform, workers have the potential to come in contact with shear points like chains. There must be some type of guard in the area between workers and the mast to prevent this type of contact from happening.
Again, it is understandable that workers want to use the quickest and most efficient way to complete a job or task, but if you completely disregard safety in the process, the time you think you’re saving employing unsafe forklift practices will turn into time spent at the hospital recovering. Make sure you follow the above guidelines in this article whenever you are using forklifts to raise personnel in the workplace and you will be much safer.