Forklift trucks are essential machines for material handling and moving heavy objects in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and construction sites. In this blog we will be exploring the different types of forklifts and some of the main hazards associated with forklifts or MHEs.
The main type of forklifts
There are several types of forklift trucks available, each with unique features and capabilities that make them suitable for specific tasks.
- Counterbalance Forklift Trucks: These are the most common type of forklift trucks and are used for general material handling in warehouses and distribution centers. They are designed with a weight on the back to balance the weight of the load, hence the name “counterbalance.” They are available in various sizes, capacities, and fuel types (electric, diesel, or LPG).
- Reach Trucks: These are narrow-aisle forklifts that are designed for use in tight spaces such as narrow aisles or high racking systems. They have extending forks that can reach up to 10 meters in height, making them ideal for use in high-density warehouses.
- Order Pickers: These forklifts are designed for use in warehouses where items need to be picked from high racking systems. They have a platform for the operator to stand on, which can be raised and lowered along with the forks to pick items at high levels.
- Pallet Jacks: Also known as pallet trucks or pump trucks, these are used for moving palletized loads over short distances. They are manually operated or electrically powered and do not have forks that extend upwards.
- Rough Terrain Forklifts: These forklifts are designed for use in outdoor settings, such as construction sites or lumberyards. They have larger wheels and a higher ground clearance than other types of forklifts, making them suitable for rough and uneven terrain.
- Telescopic Handler: These are versatile forklifts used in agriculture, construction, and mining industries. They have an extending arm or boom, which can be fitted with different attachments, such as a bucket or a pallet fork, making them suitable for a wide range of tasks.
What are the main hazards?
Forklift trucks can be extremely useful machines, but they can also pose significant risks to the operator, other workers, and the workplace itself. Some of the main hazards associated with forklift trucks include:
- Accidents involving pedestrians: Forklifts are often used in busy working environments, where there may be a high number of pedestrians, such as in warehouses or construction sites. If forklifts are not driven carefully or if workers are not trained to watch out for them, there can be accidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities.
- Collisions with other vehicles or equipment: Forklifts are often used alongside other machinery or vehicles, such as delivery trucks or cranes. If operators are not paying attention or if communication is poor, there can be collisions that can result in damage to equipment or injury to workers.
- Overturning: Forklifts can easily tip over if they are not operated properly, especially when they are carrying heavy loads or when they are being driven on uneven or sloping terrain.
- Falling objects: When forklifts are being used to lift and move loads, there is a risk of objects falling from the forks and injuring workers or damaging property.
- Fires and explosions: Forklifts powered by fuels such as propane or diesel carry the risk of fire or explosion if there is a leak or if the fuel is not stored and handled properly.
- Improper maintenance and repair: Forklifts require regular maintenance and repair to ensure that they are operating safely. If these tasks are neglected, there can be malfunctions or failures that can lead to accidents.
Performing pre-use checks
Performing pre-use checks is an important aspect of forklift safety, as it helps to identify any potential problems or hazards before the forklift is put into operation. Before using a forklift, the operator should perform the following checks:
- Check the tires: Ensure that the tires are properly inflated and in good condition. Look for signs of damage or excessive wear and tear, and replace any tires that are damaged or worn.
- Check the brakes: Test the brakes to ensure they are working correctly. This should include testing the service brake, parking brake, and emergency brake.
- Check the fluids: Check the fuel, oil, and coolant levels and top up if necessary. Also, inspect the hydraulic fluid for leaks.
- Check the controls: Test the steering, accelerator, and brake pedals to ensure they are working correctly.
- Check the lights and signals: Test the headlights, taillights, and turn signals to ensure they are working correctly.
- Check the forks: Inspect the forks for damage or cracks, and ensure that they are properly attached to the carriage.
- Check the seat and seatbelt: Ensure that the seat is securely attached and adjust the seatbelt to fit correctly.
- Check the horn: Test the horn to ensure it is working correctly.
- Check the load capacity: Check the load capacity of the forklift to ensure that the load being carried does not exceed the maximum weight limit.
It is important that these checks are performed before each use of the forklift, and that any issues or concerns are reported to the employer or maintenance personnel immediately. Performing these checks can help to prevent accidents and ensure that the forklift is operating safely.
REMEMBER: To operate a forklift safely, an operator must possess a set of competencies that allow them to effectively and safely operate the forklift in a variety of situations.