Mar 07, 2014

Reducing Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Liability for Employers: Forklift Safety

As a business owner and an employer, it’s important to protect yourself and your employees. And in Massachusetts, one of the best ways to do this is to reduce your workers’ compensation liability through regular equipment safety inspections—starting with your forklifts and lift trucks. Regular inspections of these common warehouse vehicles will keep your workplace safer and drastically decrease the chance of onsite injuries.

When it comes to workers’ compensation liability for forklift and lift truck related incidents, Massachusetts employers should know the following:

1. Forklift Safety for Drivers

Operator safety is a critical component to avoiding forklift and lift truck accidents in the workplace. So to ensure you are outfitting your facility with the highest operator safety standards, make sure that all drivers: 

  • Are certified.
  • Wear personal safety protective gear that is recommended for their area, including but not limited to: gloves, safety glasses or goggles, hard hats, earplugs, and filter masks.
  • Are aware of capacities and recommended uses and attachments for their vehicle.
  • Use traffic rules and hand signals to clearly communicate with all site personnel.

2. Forklift Safety Inspection Points:

In addition to keeping your drivers up to speed on safe operations, another crucial component of maintaining a safe environment, and therefore reducing workers’ compensation liability, is to maintain your vehicles with regular safety inspections.

Make sure to check the manufacturer’s manual or your local Massachusetts OSHA headquarters for any and all maintenance checklists they may have, and ask regular operators if they have noticed anything that should be checked.

Below are some specific safety inspection points:

  • Anchor Pins: Chain anchor pins at the end of each lift chain should be checked frequently to ensure that they are in place securely. Compare with another forklift if you’re unsure about the placement of a pin.
  • Brakes: Check the condition of the pedal and the effectiveness of braking from both forward and backward movement.
  • Chains: Inspect the lift chain for wear, looseness, or any damaged links.
  • Operator’s Compartment: Check that footing areas are clean and that traction pads are in place. Check seat belt buckles and straps.
  • Engine Oil System: Check for leaks and make sure that oil levels are between recommended levels.
  • Forks: check the forks for any damage, wear, cracks or misalignment.
  • Gas tanks: Make sure the gas tank has no leaks and is kept within recommended levels at all times.
  • Hydraulic cylinders and lines: Check cylinder pins for ample retention. Check the lift, side shift, and tilt functions for smooth operation. Make sure that lines are secured and not in danger of contact with sharp objects. Note: Extreme caution should be taken when dealing with hydraulic lines, as the contents are under extreme pressure and can cause severe bodily harm if lines are punctured.
  • Tires: Gauge tire pressure and check for any damage or wear, and replace if necessary.
  • Undercarriage: Check underneath the forklift to make sure that nothing is caught in the undercarriage and that nothing is dislodged, hanging down, or rotted.
  • Lights and sounds: Make sure that all lights, including brake lights and strobe lights, are in good working condition, and the backup alarm is working.
  • Warning labels: All warning and safety labels should be in good condition and legible.

Coupled with your vehicle manufacturer manual recommendations, these tips should help keep your warehouse vehicles safer, avoid injuries, and reduce your liability when it comes to workers’ compensation in Massachusetts.

For further safety tips and workers’ compensation information, visit AWANE’s safety blog or contact us—we’re always here to talk shop.