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When you drive a forklift every day, it can become routine. Experienced operators often take their safety for granted. Even the smallest forklift safety mistake can lead to severe injury or death. This is even true when performing such mundane tasks as mounting and dismounting a forklift.
One of the most common causes of worker injury results from improperly mounting and dismounting vehicles and equipment. Forklift operators must make safety their primary focus in all aspects of their job. Potential hazards of mounting a forklift include:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Hitting your head on the overhead guard
- Accidentally moving one of the forklift’s controls
Safe forklift operation starts long before the operator sits in the seat. All forklift operators must be trained, evaluated, and certified before being permitted to operate a forklift. Some parts of the certification process must be performed by the employer, but much of the safety training can be completed through online courses, such as this excellent online forklift training course.
Another vital safety step must be completed before mounting a forklift. All forklifts must be inspected before they are used each shift. This can be performed using a checklist, such as this forklift inspection checklist. Regarding mounting and dismounting hazards, the following items should be checked as part of the inspection:
- Check the floor for water, oil, or other substances that may make your shoes slippery.
- Check the step and floor of the forklift for slippery substances.
- Also check hand holds and the steering wheel and ensure they are clean.
- Ensure no steps or hand holds are loose or damaged.
In addition, you should always wear footwear appropriate for the work environment. OSHA requires protective-toe footwear for forklift operators in most situations. Always check your footwear and your hands before mounting and ensure they are clean and dry.
Three Points of Contact
Falls while mounting and dismounting forklifts are very common. Using three points of contact while climbing in or out of the cab is an easy way to prevent severe injuries.
Three points of contact means that three parts of your body are touching the forklift and/or the ground at all times. This means you are either holding on with both hands with one foot on the ground/step, or you have both feet on the ground/step and one had holding on. Three points of contact means that you are only moving one limb at a time, with the other three in contact with the ground or hand holds. This is a very stable way to mount or dismount any vehicle or machine. If one point of contact slips, you still have two left to help you prevent a fall.
In addition, you should only ever mount or dismount while facing the forklift. This is obvious when mounting, but many operators take the shortcut of stepping forward out of the cab. This makes you much less stable and more prone to slipping or falling. When exiting the forklift, always use two handholds and carefully back out of the cab. Lower one foot to the ground, and then the other while holding on with both hands. It may feel overly cautious or slow, but it is a simple way to avoid a common cause of severe injury.
Avoid Hitting the Forklift’s Controls
Ideally, the forklift should be turned off when the operator is not in the seat. However, if you re-mount a running forklift and hit one of the controls in the process, the machine or the mast may move. This can be very dangerous because you are not in control.
To avoid this potential, forklifts should always be mounted on the side opposite from the mast controls. This is usually the left side. Never use any of the forklift’s controls as a hand hold when mounting or dismounting. Parking brakes must always be set before dismounting the machine, no-matter what.
Finally, your seatbelt should be fastened the moment you sit in the seat. It should always be the first thing you do after you sit down. It should also be the last thing you do before getting out of the seat.
There is always time to do the job safely. Shortcuts and complacency get people killed. Take the time to mount and dismount forklifts safely, every time!