Do you know the best fork position on your forklift? Knowing the correct answer may seem insignificant, but it is a skill that requires education of the operator as well as enforcement of the rules. It reduces accidents, but more importantly reduces the severity of injuries when accidents do happen.
Due to the operator’s reaction time and weight of the forklift, manufacturers estimate it takes 15-20 feet for a fully loaded forklift to stop from full speed.
A properly trained operator will carry his forks or load 4-6 inches off the ground. This position is high enough to reduce contact with dock plates, expansion joints in concrete, uneven areas, slight slopes, inclines and debris on operating surfaces. At 4-6 inches the forks or load is low enough that if you hit a pedestrian, the severity of the injury is limited. [Note: If you are operating on rough surfaces, the height may need to increase slightly.]
As an example, if a pedestrian steps out 6 feet in front of an operator with the forks or load carried too high, the pedestrian could be knocked down and dragged underneath the load against rotating tires for up to 10 feet of travel. The chance of survival is very slim.
Per OSHA regulations, always tilt forks back when carrying a load. While different loads require unique angles, a slight tilt is all that is needed on most lift trucks to help retain loads when a fast stop is required. Unstable, round, liquid or loose stacked loads may require higher degrees of tilt back.
Forks on the ground are a trip hazard. However, if the forks are on the ground, you get an opportunity to lift your foot as you trip to recover balance. If a fork tip or heel is left up, a pedestrian stepping over can hook her foot underneath and fall. This is referred to as a “hook fall”. Hook falls are dangerous because the foot can’t move and full body weight pulls on the foot during the fall. The usual result is broken bones in the foot, ankle or leg.
To achieve a safe “parked” fork position, an operator lowers the forks completely with the mast vertical. The mast is then tilted slightly forward until the fork tips touch the floor, preventing a pedestrian’s hook fall.
Help limit the damage that can occur at your warehouse. Commit to knowing, following and enforcing the best positions for your forklift’s forks.
Have additional questions about forklift safety? ProLift offers classroom and hands-on evaluation on the topics of forklifts, aerial lifts and skid steers. Contact our safety specialist to schedule training!