We all deal with limitations of one sort or another and at times we have depended on machinery of some type to help us compensate for those limitations. However, we tend to become enamored by their speed and strength and forget that those pieces of industrial powered machinery have limits themselves as we take them for granted and push them beyond the tasks they’ve been designed for. That means it falls upon us humans to protect the machinery and make sure they don’t exceed their capabilities so they can keep us safe at the same time.
It really burns my butt that workers are being injured and killed due to mis-information or lack of communication on what task their machine can do safely or the weight capacities of equipment. By following the steps below, you can protect yourself, prevent accidents or serious injuries at work if YOU know what to look for when it comes to equipment limitations .
Step 1 – Certification: When you were hired and your job involves the operating of any kind of industrial powered trucks/equipment you should have first received a general safety orientation and then been trained and certified by the company to operate that piece of equipment. If you were certified on a powered pallet jack and you need to operate a forklift, you need to be certified again for the operation of that forklift as well.
Step 2 – Data Plate: During the certification process you were introduced to the “data plate”. This plate is very important since it’s an I.D. the manufacturer has put together to tell you how much weight you can move safely in the facility without having to worry about tip over. It will also come in handy and help you for those times you may have to operate a different type of forklift. The weight you can move with a diesel powered forklift is more then an electric and you would learn this by reading the data plate. In fact, the data plate is so important that it is a OSHA violation to operate any powered vehicle without a date plate. So if your industrial powered truck is missing the plate, immediately inform your supervisor via the daily checklist and verbally.
Step 3 – Seatbelt: Always wear a seatbelt when operating your forklift. The manufacturer has designed your forklift to protect you within it’s cage, so if you do unfortunately experience a tip over, the seat belt will keep you within that cage and safe so you don’t wind up under a 8,000 pound forklift.
Step 4 – Modifications to any piece of equipment should be approved and done by the manufacturer of the equipment only! They know how to safely add any modifications so the equipment will continue to operate properly. As soon as the modifications are completed it is critical to have retraining of operators so they know how the modifications affect operation.
Step 5 – New Equipment: When ever you get any new piece of equipment, before anyone is allowed to touch it, training needs to be given. Why? Where is the emergency shut off, what are the weight limitations, are there exposed moving parts? I always reccommend that the manufacturers representative do the initial training to management and staff so questions can be asked by all on the equipment and then later you can develop your own training for in-house use.
Step 6 – Quick huddle: When you find that your crew has to operate equipment that hasn’t been used in a while, like seasonal equipment such as a snow plow or large industrial vehicles like a boom lift, take the few minutes and have a quick huddle to go over and remind everyone on proper operation, it’s limitations and any safety reminders related to operation of the equipment. Those few minutes taken to explain and remind can avoid hours of accident investigation and/or a trip to the E.R.
Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment beyond it capabilities, limitations and safety limits. Don’t let anyone ever push you to operate equipment in need of repair and unsafe to operate even if it’s “only this once”. If it doesn’t sound right to you, ask questions and if you don’t get answers and still being bullied to do the wrong thing, call the OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA). Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.