June 2018 Newsletter:

Forklift Safe Operations

Ergonomic training for Forklift Operators and Managers

Forklifts are a wonder at making manual handling tasks easy and efficient. However, while they may minimize the strain to the body from lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling, they do little to combat injuries caused by static sitting and back twisting. Itís typical to see an operator slouching in their seat, leaning forward, twisting to look over their shoulder and/or leaning on the armrest(s). Combine these awkward postures with prolonged use (many operators spend their entire shift seated on the forklift) and whole-body vibration, and the risk of developing and MSD is present.

You may be thinking that there is nothing you can do but thatís not the case, review the following tips and strategies for reducing injury risk at both the Operator and management levels:

FORKLIFT OPERATOR

  1. Know your machinery and learn how to adjust the seat to ensure optimal body support:
    • Set backrest angle to ~100-110 degrees
    • Set seat distance to comfortably reach and depress pedals
    • Set lumbar support to align with lower back curvature
    • Set armrests at elbow height
  2. Adjust forklift mirrors and utilize facility mirrors to reduce twisting demands
  3. Reduce forklift speed to reduce whole body vibration and lengthen the time to fatigue onset
  4. Take stretching breaks every 15-20 minutes to reduce static sitting postures and back strain
  5. Sit up straight and keep the back against the backrest

MANAGEMENT

  1. Provide staff with fully adjustable forklift seating by investigating the options before buying; for example, some forklift seats swivel to reduce twisting demands.
  2. Train staff on the equipment adjustments to maximize time spent in neutral body postures and reduce vibrations
  3. Install large mirrors on forklift and within facility to minimize twisting demands and subsequent back and neck strain
  4. Repair damaged floors, provide suitable docking ramps, and post (and enforce) speed limit signage within facility to reduce jolting and whole-body vibrations to the operators
  5. Encourage forklift operators to take frequent breaks off forklift to alternate tasks and reduce static sitting

Forklifts may make the job of load handling easier, but that does not mean they are hazard-free. By ensuring we take steps to get the best equipment possible, train on how to best utilize it to minimize injury risk and ensure the facility and work method recommendations are designed to reduce injury risk is the key to addressing this common hazard.

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