When you invest in a warehouse to store merchandise and supplies for your small business, you also need to purchase equipment such as electric forklifts to move heavy pallets of products easily. However, when you purchase lifts, you must also make sure that you have proper safety measures in place to protect your employees from accidents and your merchandise from damage. The following article provides the basic guidelines you should adhere to when you begin using electric forklifts in your warehouse.
Enact a Safety Program for Employees
Any employee that uses warehouse forklifts must be properly trained and certified. It is also illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to operate the machines. Some warehouse equipment dealers offer training programs for their customers, so check into this when you're looking for a forklift dealer at a facility like U.S. Lift & Warehouse Equipment Inc.
Even after you and your employees undergo a training program, you should hold periodic safety update sessions for your staff. The safety sessions should emphasize the following precautions.
- Never leave your seat while driving the forklift. Lift seats have seatbelts to help keep you in place. If you stand or try to reach out and grab a pallet or other cargo, you risk tipping over.
- Make sure you know where the dead man's switch is located. All types of lifts are equipped with dead man's switches, usually under the seat, to turn the machines off in an emergency.
- Don't overload the forks of the lift. All types of warehouse lifts have a load capacity that should be clearly visible on the device and listed in the user's manual. Overloading lifts could result in an unstable ride and damage to the forks of the machine.
- While you may be tempted to use the forks to push boxes or pallets, don't. The forks of the machine are designed to lift cargo. You could cause irreversible damage to the lift by using it to push loads.
- Do not operate the lift when the forks are touching the ground. You will damage the lift and your floor.
- Never let anyone ride on the forks or carry someone on the lift with you.
Keep these rules and other safety measures posted in prominent places around the warehouse.
Provide Regular Maintenance
Your warehouse forklift dealer can provide you with details on how often you should get your device serviced. However, there are some maintenance tasks that you can perform yourself.
Charging the battery of an electric lift is a routine procedure but should only be performed by an employee specifically trained to complete the chore. You should set up a dedicated area for the task, preferably a room that contains safety equipment, including an eye wash and shower system to protect your employee in case there is an acid spill from the battery. The room should also have a good exhaust system.
Your employee should also wear protective clothing, including goggles and gloves, while charging the battery. If you do not have the space or equipment for changing the battery, consult with your warehouse supplier on getting help to perform the task.
Each time an employee operates the lift, they should perform an inspection of the machine to check for damage. Many lifts come with a pre-operation checklist that you can use as a guide for daily inspections.
Arrange Your Warehouse to Accommodate Lifts
Keeping a clean and well-lit warehouse enhances the overall safety of your operations. Make sure that the space has enough lighting so that there are no dim areas.
The layout of the warehouse can also help deter accidents. Walkways and aisles should always be free of obstructions and be clearly marked. If possible, you should make separate pathways for pedestrians and forklifts.
Place convex mirrors at corners and intersections so lift operators and pedestrians can see around corners.
If you have the money in your budget, add sensors and beams near walkways so pedestrians will know when a forklift is approaching.
If you need help trying to figure out how to retrofit your warehouse to accommodate machinery like lifts or have questions about safety regulations, contact your local Occupational Safety and Health Administration office for a free on-site consultation.