Have you inspected your forklift lately?

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Every day at many work locations, powered industrial trucks (aka forklifts) are sadly being neglected and unloved. Sounds extreme, but it’s true.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard states, “Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service … Such examination shall be made at least daily.” OSHA continues, “where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift.”

So, let’s break down when and what to inspect, and who should do it.

First and foremost – inspections MUST be done.

Inspections need to be done when you put a powered industrial truck (let’s call them forklifts from here on out) in service.

This means inspecting new forklifts and those that have been sitting around unused more than one day. Beyond that, if you use a forklift more than one shift in any given day – you need to inspect it at least after each shift.

OK, so now that’s a little clearer and we know when to inspect – let’s talk about WHO must inspect. Often the forklift operators are the inspectors – and that’s perfectly acceptable. It makes sense for the person who is most impacted to do the inspection. However, sometimes a supervisor or a maintenance employee does the inspection., That’s fine, too. Just make sure the inspector is trained, the inspection’s getting done and it’s getting done right.

Now, let’s cover WHAT we should inspect for. First things first – you need to make sure you are inspecting anything the manufacturer recommends. Yup, you’ve got it – that means you need the manual for the equipment. I know, I know, you have a really old forklift, or maybe you bought it used from an auction … who has the manual? Well, you should. I If you don’t have it, you need to find it – look online, contact the manufacturer or a dealer … but find it. Once you have it, I suggest making a copy and squirrelling away the original so you don’t have to go through this again.

After you use the manufacturer recommendations, you need to consider things that OSHA details out for training. You’ve got it right – OSHA does not give a list of what should be inspected, however it does list mechanical things you need to train your folks on … so it makes sense to inspect for those things. These include:

  • Safety guards.
  • Batteries or fuel systems.
  • Steering systems and wheels.
  • Load backrest extensions.
  • Brakes, horn and lights (if present).

Additionally, you should look at housekeeping – seriously housekeeping on a forklift! Your truck should be kept “clean, free of lint, excess oil and grease.” Now, I’m not expecting the equipment to be clean enough to eat off, but it should not look like a pig sty. You should also include any other safety and operational items that you and your company deem inspection-worthy.

I recommend you create your own checklist to include all these things. You can find dozens of samples online, but don’t just use one without carefully looking at it.  You can update and customize this checklist as needed, it’s yours … so make it look like it!

The OSHA standard also says you need to train your employees on “any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.” Bottom line, if your forklift operators are doing the inspections, they need to know how to do them. A great way to train them is to go out and do the inspection as an exercise during the operator training on a real-life forklift. You can also use this YouTube video that we created (I helped) to aid in the training of forklift inspection.

The last item to keep in mind about forklift inspections is: if you find something unsafe, you DO something about it. OSHA 1910.178(p)(1) says: “If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition.” Don’t ignore unsafe conditions you discover on a forklift. I know, you need to get the job done, but if you have an incident because your forklift is unsafe, it will take a lot longer to do the job and you may hurt someone. That’s not worth it!

The last thought I will leave you with is, consider the dreaded concern of “pencil whipping.” I know you would never do it – but sometimes the importance of an inspection is forgotten and in our rush – we grab the inspection sheet and check off it’s “all good” without even looking at the equipment. If you are the inspector and you are reading this: DON’T DO THAT – that’s silly. If you administer the inspection program, don’t allow others to take shortcuts either.

You can do things to prevent accidents – do spot checks, ask questions and double check. Make forklift inspections a priority!

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