The contestant, an experienced lift truck operator, perfectly executed the course at a forklift rally. He was so excited, however, that at the end of his run he jumped off his machine, not taking care to make a three-point dismount. As a result, he lost points from judges and failed to win the competition. The three-point dismount, while often overlooked, is key to maintaining operator safety.
So you see, when you're learning forklift basics, it's crucial to understand the importance of mounting and dismounting a forklift, as well as seat belt usage and what to do in the event of a tip-over. It is important to understand that if a loaded forklift’s center of gravity moves outside the stability triangle, then a tip-over could result. While skilled operators rarely encounter a tip-over situation, it is important that they are prepared for such a possibility.
Mount and Dismount
First of all, let’s look at the importance of mounting and dismounting any kind of lift truck, including even a low platform pallet jack. Complacency around this operation results in far too many injuries. Such situations include:
- Operator steps off of forklift and lands awkwardly.
- Operator catches loose clothing or coveralls on forklift while dismounting and falls.
- Operator slips and falls while dismounting.
- Operator slips on floor debris while still hanging onto the handhold with one hand, resulting in an upper-body injury.
When mounting or dismounting a forklift, you must have three points of contact – either two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot. It is exactly like climbing up or down a ladder. Remember to face the machine. Operators have a tendency to face away from the machine and hop or jump off, thus greatly increasing the risk of injury.
Tips for Mounting and Dismounting Safely
When mounting or dismounting a forklift, always:
- Face the vehicle
- Never jump off
- Use a three-point stance (always have both hands and one foot or vice-versa in contact with the unit)
- Wear certified safety shoes (oil resistant and non-slippery)
- Wear suitable clothing (do not wear loose clothing or dangling jewelry)
- Check the area around the forklift to make sure the floor is free of fluid or other debris that could cause a slip
- Check for other traffic
Once aboard a counterbalanced forklift, the operator is required to wear a seatbelt. There is a litany of reasons why operators do not wear seat belts, such as that they have to get on and off far too often, or that in the event of a tip-over, they could jump clear more quickly. The reality is that operators rarely jump clear more quickly. Tip-overs happen extremely rapidly and can be fatal if the operator is not wearing a seatbelt. Additionally, operators tend to think that a tip-over situation simply would not happen to them. Operators do not anticipate a tip over until it is too late. Be prepared for the unexpected by wearing a seatbelt.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
- If a rollover starts, don’t attempt to jump from the forklift.
- Brace your feet firmly on the floor and hold on tightly to the steering wheel.
- Lean away from the direction that the forklift is rolling. (This is to reduce the chance of the operator getting caught under the machine)
- When a forklift tips, it happens with surprising immediacy. Only operators who have mastered these safety precautions will be able to react instinctively to protect their safety.
Remember, most injuries or fatalities that occur as a result of a rollover result from the driver trying to jump clear from the machine. If a seat belt is installed in your forklift, OSHA requires that it must be worn.
The information presented above is offered only for general information. Be sure to contact a safety professional to ensure that your forklift safety program meets or exceeds the requirements for your jurisdiction. Remember that each workplace is unique and will have its own site-specific risks that must be managed. To read more about lift truck safety, visit OSHA.