Like other industries that utilize heavy equipment, the material handling industry requires operator vigilance. Industrial trucks that transport large loads of materials from one place to another must be operated with a careful thought process in order to mitigate the risk of accidents.
When the operator takes into account the weight, load center / center of gravity, ramps, turning and both speed and control, the risk of tipping should be minimized. Here are some important considerations.
The forklift operator, when operating any forklift, must undergo strict OSHA certified training and pass an evaluation. Upon completion, the operator will have the legal ability to drive this machine. OSHA requires that forklift drivers receive re-certification every three years, unless that driver was involved in an accident, has been known to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner, or the condition of the workplace changes to require re-evaluation and refresher training.
What Causes Forklift Tips?
Despite best efforts and training, tipping is still possible. The number one thing all operators need to take into consideration when maneuvering a heavy load is the center of gravity of the vehicle. If the carrying load is outside the width of the wheelbase, the center of gravity may be off and the operator risks tipping. OSHA warns to be vigilant of off-center loads and overloading one’s forklift due to the imminent tipping risk. If the load must necessarily be off-center, for instance if one is moving an object like machinery, then they must center the weight as precisely as possible while distributing the heaviest part of the load toward the mast of the forklift. The truck is designed to counter balance the front load with installed weights on the back of the truck. If the weight isn’t more than the specified load capacity, and the weight is distributed between the wheelbase, then the driver should be in the optimal operating range.
Side Tipping and Speed Control
Front tipping is almost exclusively caused by incorrect weight distribution and ignoring center of gravity. But what about side tipping? Side tipping is a result of poor operation on the driver’s part and can be avoided with speed control and precision driving. Forklifts are designed to allow the operator to turn in a very tight circle, and if one is traveling fast with a heavy load, especially one that’s elevated, this can lead to tipping. A driver gains tipping momentum by swinging a heavy load away from the fulcrum of the machine at such a fast pace that the truck may tip over. When traveling with an elevated load, the mast becomes a lever arm, so the operator needs to be particularly careful when traveling with the load elevated.
What to do in the Event of a Tip?
In the event of a tip, it’s vital that the operator remain in the vehicle and not try to jump to safety. If the forklift has a seatbelt the operator is required to wear it, which is the case of every sit-down unit. If the driver feels the forklift starting to lose balance and tip over, it is recommended that they lean away from the direction of the fall, keep their hands on the steering wheel, and remain in their normal position. Forklifts are designed to protect the driver so if the operator stays calm and in their normal position, they have a much greater chance of avoiding injury.
Choosing the Right Forklift for the Job
When it comes time to rent or buy equipment for a new project or to supplement your fleet, be sure you’re getting the right forklift for your environment and load requirements. There are many different models and capacities available, so there are usually specific models and configurations best suited for any job. Forklift dealers offer a vast array of various sit-down and stand-up model lift trucks. Some may offer operator training and certification for forklift operators.
Whether renting or buying, if you have questions selecting a forklift, please leave a comment below.