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Forklifts could be life-threatening workplace hazards

Workers in warehouses in the area between Philadelphia and Baltimore face multiple safety hazards. Some of the most dangerous pieces of machinery in such facilities are mobile equipment such as lift trucks and forklifts. If you are the operator of such a vehicle, you might benefit from a reminder about the hazards you face and the steps you can take to protect yourself.

Forklifts have multiple moving parts that pose injury risks, and an added hazard is its size and shape. It is crucial for you to understand the challenges posed by the machine and its unique center of gravity when it comes to balancing loads.

Safety guidelines

The first thing to establish is that a forklift is a dangerous piece of equipment that should not be mistaken for a plaything. Take charge of the vehicle, and do not allow co-workers to use it in horseplay activities. The following safety guidelines might protect you from harm and keep you out of the hospital:

  • Are you qualified? Forklifts come in different sizes and with varying load capacities. Make sure you have the necessary qualifications for operating your allocated forklift.
  • Check the weight: If you exceed the load capacity of the forklift, it can tip over and cause injuries to you and pedestrian workers nearby.
  • Secure the load: Ensure that every load is safe before you move it -- even if you need to use straps or ropes. Learn about the machine's center of gravity, and ensure you tilt the weight of the cargo backward and keep the forks low while you drive.
  • Dress with safety in mind: Your clothing must include the necessary personal protective equipment such as a hard hat, safety shoes and a high visibility jacket. Avoid loose clothing because moving parts of the forklift can catch them.
  • Do routine checks: Do routine safety checks at the start of each shift, and take it out of service for maintenance and repairs when necessary.
  • Be safe and comfortable: Use the hand grabs and the steps to mount the machine, and strap yourself in with the seat belt before you start the forklift. You must have easy access to all the controls.
  • Do not speed: No matter how tight your deadline or work schedule is, do not exceed the recommended speed limit. Keep in mind that forklifts are top-heavy even without loads, especially when you turn corners or change direction.
  • Ensure clear visibility: Never drive without having a clear view of the route, even if you have to travel backward and turn around in the seat to watch where you go. Also, never place a load without having a clear view of the racking.
  • Be alert: Drive only on designated forklift routes and keep a lookout for wet or slippery spots, damaged surfaces, random objects and debris, and also pedestrian workers who might be unaware of your approach. Take note of specifications related to maximum loads and clearance heights as you move through doorways into different areas of the facility.

Following these safety precautions might lower the injury risks, but they will not guarantee your safety.

How to deal with the consequences of injuries

If you should suffer a forklift-related injury, the first and most important step is to get the necessary medical care. Only then can you report your injury, in writing, to your employer to get the workers' compensation wheels turning. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist with the process of filing benefits claims with the Pennsylvania workers' compensation system to cover medical expenses and lost wages.

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