April 27, 2006

Moving high loads

Many loads are so high that they can completely obscure the forklift operator's line of sight. If the load can be split and carried on two separate pallets, this is the preferred mode of operation. Occasionally, a single piece of machinery or other object is so large that no other alternative is possible. In these circumstances the operator must use a spotter and must rely on the spotter as he would his own eyes or drive the load backwards. Spotters should be chosen with care. They must be able to respond to danger quickly, must be responsible and be able to and willing to effectively communicate with the driver.

Materials that are to be stacked have special risks. Operators must be extremely precise in the placement of stacked loads: any deviation from the center could cause the load to topple over. Further the operator must know the weight limitation of pallets (the lowest pallet supports the entire weight of the stack) as well as the nature of materials to be stacked (i.e. will they collapse under the weight of even a single pallet).

April 24, 2006

Lessons learned

During the routine transfer of radioactive waste containers at a waste disposal trench, an improperly balanced waste container fell from a forklift. The situation could have resulted in serious injury if the container had struck a worker and the container could have been damaged, resulting in radiological contamination.

Normally, containers are moved one at a time, but this time the driver was attempting to move two at once and miscommunication with the spotter contributed to the accident. When the driver asked the spotter if everything was okay, he said yes, assuming the driver knew what he was doing. The driver admitted he should have only lifted one container at a time while the spotter said he should have stopped the lift. Both workers exhibited a certain level of complacency, which was a major cause of the accident.

Lessons learned:

* Remind workers that routine tasks require attention to safety and that complacency reduces safety consciousness.
* Train operators and spotters to communicate with formal words and signals, and encourage spotters to always notify operators of their concerns.

April 20, 2006

Avoiding accidents

Working with a forklift requires constant attention to the hazards in front, above and around the area of operation. Despite one's best intentions there is always a possibility for accidents to occur. Forklift operators should take precautions to minimize accident potential. They should verify that the charge on the forklift is adequate to the task (at least 1/2 full for normal loads and 3/4 full for heavy loads), they should survey the travel route before making a lift to familiarize themselves with any potential obstacles, they should warn people in the area that forklift operations are underway, they should arrange for a spotter if there is any potential obstacle that could have serious consequences if hit by the forklift, or blind spots along the way. If their vision is impaired due to the size of the load, a spotter is essential for safe completion of the lift or the forklift must be driven backwards to ensure a clear line of sight. Most of all the driver must be on the look-out for any behavior that could jeopardize the operation such as exceeding the load center or the forklift maximum weight.

April 17, 2006

OSHA fines Florida company for forklift violations

OSHA has cited Coreslab Structures for operating unsafe forklifts and other safety hazards at the company’s Medley, FL facility. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $45,000.

OSHA issued nine serious citations to the pre-cast concrete manufacturer, with proposed penalties of $45,000, for: failing to train forklift operators and require them to wear safety belts; allowing employees to operate trucks that needed repair; and allowing employees, other than the operator, to ride on the equipment. Other cited safety violations included allowing employees to ride on cranes, use unsafe cutting tools and operate machinery without safety guards.

The agency also cited, but did not propose penalties for, the lack of required labels on forklifts, poor housekeeping and some unlabeled hazardous chemicals stored at the facility.

OSHA conducted this inspection last August concurrently with the investigation of a worker's death from carbon monoxide poisoning. Alleged violations in that case, for which OSHA cited Coreslab Structures in November, included exposing workers to carbon monoxide above permissible levels and failing to have alarms that warned workers of elevated levels. Proposed penalties totaled $24,000. In December, the company contested the citations.

The company has 15 days to contest the latest citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

April 13, 2006

Training Spanish speaking employees

If OSHA visits your workplace, will you be able to show how your company provides forklift safety training to Spanish-speaking employees?

Before beginning work, each employee must receive safety orientation training. If there is any question about whether Spanish speaking employees can understand the material, it should be provided in Spanish by a bilingual trainer. PowerPoint handouts that provide technical information should also be available in Spanish.

Facility evacuation plans, maps and procedures should also be translated into Spanish.

Employees who will be using powered tools, equipment or machines should also receive information in Spanish. Most contemporary manuals come in Spanish. If you only have them in English, call the manufacturer.

Also, make sure safety labels, postings and warnings on machines and equipment are posted in Spanish.

April 10, 2006

Safe loading

Fourteen percent of forklift accidents occur by the load falling off of the forklift, according to LegalMatch.

Tower Times, a publication of the National Association of Tower Erectors, offers these tips for safe loading:

* Make sure the load is within the forklift’s rated capacity. Never exceed the maximum weight you may carry that is listed on the nameplate.
* Check for a stable and centered load and stack or tie uneven or loose loads.
* Use the proper lift fixture for the type of load – carpet spike, drum grappler, etc.
* Spread the forks as widely as possible for even distribution.
* Drive in to the loading position and insert the forks far enough to be sure the pallet is completely in the forks – take care not to damage materials stacked next to the pallet.
* Drive under the load until it slightly touches the carriage. Tilt the forks back to shift the weight of the load back, making it more stable.
* If the load is unbalanced, keep the heavier end closer to you. Tilt the mast back.
* Lift the load and tilt it back a little more before traveling.