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Are you qualified to operate that forklift?

Forklifts have become an essential piece of equipment wherever movement of materials takes place in California. So whether you are a forklift operator on a construction site or in any of the many warehouses or fulfillment and distribution centers in and around San Diego, you will face the common hazards that these machines pose. Not all employers give forklift safety the necessary attention.

Forklifts move building materials outdoors, and indoors in warehouses where they move stock products from receiving bays to pallets and shelves, and from there to the loading docks. They can lift or pull loaded pallets, and transport stacked boxes, crates, drums and many other objects. However, these dangerous machines could cause catastrophic injuries or even death.

Common forklift hazards:

Your employer must ensure that you receive the necessary training before you operate a forklift. Improperly operated forklifts can tip over and cause crushing injuries, and they also pose struck-by and caught-between hazards. If you receive proper training, you will know to keep the following rules in mind:

  • Qualification: The best way to ensure adequate training to operate a forklift is to obtain a license or certificate from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Remember that your qualification does not cover all types of lift trucks, and different forklifts have different features.
  • Safety clothing: The appropriate safety wear includes a high-visibility vest or jacket, safety shoes and a hard hat. Avoid loose clothing that could catch on the moving parts of the machine.
  • Pre-shift check: A routine inspection according to a checklist is essential before the start of a shift. Remove the lift truck from service for repairs or maintenance -- never use a machine with defects or potential malfunctions.
  • Safe seating: Use hand grabs and steps when accessing the cabin of the forklift. Make sure you reach the controls comfortably, always fasten your seat belt, and keep all your limbs inside the cabin.
  • Secure loads: Ensure balanced and secured loads, even if it is necessary to use straps and ropes. Keep the fork low during travel, and make sure the load tilts backward.
  • Avoid overloading: Overloading can cause the machine to tip over. Never exceed the manufacturer's prescribed maximum load capacity.
  • Visibility: Ensure clear visibility when traveling with a load, also when placing it.
  • Be alert: Be aware of the surroundings at all times and ensure the planned route is free of bumps, holes, debris and wetness, and only drive on designated roadways. Always look out for pedestrian workers and make sure they are aware of your approach.
  • Do not speed: Never exceed the recommended speed for the machine, and slow down, even more, when turning and changing direction while carrying a load.

Compliance with all the forklift-related safety regulations will go a long way in keeping you safe. However, accidents happen, and if you suffer injuries in a forklift-related incident, you might find comfort in knowing the California workers' compensation insurance system will have your back. You can simplify the complicated claims process by utilizing the services of an experienced attorney in San Diego who can work to obtain maximum benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages and more -- depending on the severity of the injury.

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