Tips from Australia’s Forklift Tyre Experts to Get You Compliant
According to WorkSafe Victoria, forklifts cause more workplace deaths and injuries than any other piece of equipment. Due to their heavy and large nature, forklifts are capable of resulting in serious injury or death even when travelling at low speeds.
For this reason, occupational health and safety standards are particularly important when it comes to forklift operation. If you are an employer who relies on the operation of forklifts to complete any aspect of your work – no matter how infrequently you use forklifts, and no matter how removed you are from forklift operation on a daily basis – it is imperative that you are aware of safe practice.
Axis are Australia’s forklift tyre experts, and we are just as committed to helping other businesses to achieve OH&S forklift compliance as we are to achieving it within our own company. Below, we share some of our specialist industry knowledge to help you achieve OH&S forklift compliance within your own workplace.
Let’s get this straight: forklift compliance is not only for the benefit of your staff. It’s also essential for your business to comply with legislative requirements. In adhering to OH&S forklift compliance standards, there are legal, moral as well as business implications to consider.
‘According to WorkSafe Victoria, forklifts cause more workplace deaths and injuries than any other piece of equipment.’
In each State and Territory in Australia, employers are responsible by law for providing:
- A safe work environment
- Safe systems of work
- Safe & well-maintained machinery
- Proper information, training & supervision
While OH&S forklift compliance is the legal responsibility of the employer to enforce, creating a safe work environment ultimately requires cooperation between managers and staff alike.
Creating a Safe Work Environment
The first step to ensuring a safe work environment for your employees is to identify the types of hazards that are present. This includes both tangible threats (i.e. those presented by equipment or the physical work environment) as well as less visible threats (i.e. insufficient training, supervision or resources).
We’ll start by addressing the first of these potential hazards: physical threats.
Warehouses in which forklifts are operated must be properly laid out for safe operation. To achieve OH&S forklift compliance within your workplace, it is necessary to identify:
- The practical functions of your warehouse (e.g. storage & receiving goods)
- The risks that daily operations could present for both forklift operators & pedestrians
Signage is imperative to ensuring a safe work environment. All areas should be clearly signed to indicate their respective functions, and to make clear what can and cannot be done in these areas.
An important example to use would be the boundaries between pedestrian walkways, roadways and operating areas. Some tips to make sure these areas are OH&S forklift compliant include:
- Clearly marking all roadways & operating areas with bollards & barriers
- Marking all boundaries between pedestrian walkways, roadways & operating areas with speed limits
- Minimising any cross-flows & intersections to prevent risk to pedestrians & operators
- Ensuring forklift operators are wearing high visibility clothing within all traffic areas
Not overlooking the importance of appropriate safety footwear for your workers
Safe Systems of Work
It is impossible to eliminate all risk from forklift operation. By definition, it is a job that involves some risk. Rather than eliminating risk entirely, OH&S forklift compliance is focused on identifying and minimising hazards wherever possible.
To fulfil your OH&S duties as an employer, it is necessary to have safe work systems in place for when potential risks do arise. When this happens, it is your responsibility to take action to minimise or, if possible, eliminate the risk.
Hazards that you have identified within your workplace should be placed into one (or more) of the following categories, to minimise risk and achieve OH&S forklift compliance:
- Elimination: can you eliminate the hazard by, for example, removing the offending piece of equipment from operation?
- Engineering Controls/Isolation: could the risk be reduced by isolating or re-designing the offending piece of equipment?
- Administrative Controls: could the risk be reduced by, for example, limiting the amount of workers who have access to the offending area or piece of equipment? Or, alternately, could more adequate training lessen the hazard?
- Personal Protective Equipment: would providing employees with properly fitted protective equipment reduce the risk?
These four methods should always be prioritised, with emphasis on the most holistic, risk-reducing option. The most effective method will always (always!) be elimination; this should be prioritised above all else. Alternately, providing protective equipment for your forklift operators should always be the last resort, and only really used in conjunction with other risk-reduction methods.
Safe & Well-Maintained Machinery
It makes sense that OH&S forklift compliance should place such emphasis on the safety and proper maintenance of forklifts. Below are just some of the considerations you should be making in the effort to achieve OH&S forklift compliance, with other issues being addressed as they arise within your workplace.
Forklift Safety Features
To achieve OH&S forklift compliance, you should be making sure the equipment itself is as safe as possible for operators. Some of the standard safety features your forklifts should include are:
- Ratchet-style locking brake levers that can’t be easily (or accidentally) disengaged
- Low cowl height for better operator vision
- Wide foot-steps & accessible grab-bars for easy forklift access
- Reverse alarms & speed limiters
- Seatbelt indicators
- Hydraulic function lock-outs
In the effort to achieve OH&S forklift compliance, you can’t just take the machine itself into consideration. During the course of your daily operations, you should also be paying attention to load handling attachments (those devices fitted to forklifts to enable the safe handling of specific types of loads). These include but are not limited to:
- Side shifts
- Fork clamps & bale clamps
- Multi-pallet handlers
- Layer pickers
- Slip-ons such as jibs, probes & fork extensions
Additionally, it's a good idea to look at the common load and it's own OH&S requirements. For instance, if you're loading pallets on a regular basis, consider the value of a pallet wrapping machine which will offer a greater level of security than manually wrapped pallets.
Did you know?
10% wear on the blade of an attachment results in a 20% loss of strength.
Forklift attachments will affect the load bearing capacity of the forklift itself. Individual load capacities which include any attachments should be shown on a name plate attached to the forklift, indicating the maximum load an operator should be lifting with attachments.
Forklift attachments are commonplace within industry warehouses, and carry with them multiple safety-enhancing benefits such as:
- Reduced risk of injury to operators
- Minimisation of manual handling
- Damage reduction
- Increased productivity
However, if not used correctly – or if not correctly labelled – then you could compromise your OH&S forklift compliance. Therefore, any and all forklift attachments you use should be identified with:
- The manufacturer, make & model
- The capacity at load centre
- The horizontal centre of gravity
- Lost load
‘Individual load capacities which include any attachments should be shown on a name plate attached to the forklift, indicating the maximum load an operator should be lifting with attachments.’
No matter what the load bearing capacity of your forklift is with attachments, the forklift itself should be engaging a minimum of 75% of the total load. This percentage will again vary with the length and width of the attachment as well as its style and tip shape.
Proper Information, Training & Supervision
If you want to achieve OH&S forklift compliance, it is imperative to know your equipment… and to make sure your staff do, too.
It is particularly important to know about your forklift tyres, as these are indispensable for the safe operation of forklifts and the bearing of loads.
There is a huge range of forklift tyres available on the market, each with different benefits in specific applications. However, along with their unique benefits come their unique disadvantages.
Before even choosing which type of forklift tyre to use in your workplace, be sure to know the types of tyres and wheels available, as well as what applications they are suitable for.
The common types of forklift tyres include:
More than just knowing the basics of forklift tyre types – such as what applications they are generally suitable for – it is important to know the design, manufacturing quality and the materials used for the tyre’s construction. Even within the different types of forklift tyres, the quality and compounds differ according to the quality of the manufacturing. This, in turn, will affect both the environments they are best suited to as well as the proper maintenance procedures needed to keep them OH&S forklift compliant.
Some of the basic considerations of tyre maintenance for OH&S forklift compliance include:
- Understanding which tyre sizes fit your equipment
- Which tyres are best for your specific application
- Understanding what factors could influence the life of your tyres
- Making sure to keep track of tyre wear & tear
- Understanding proper storage methods for forklift tyres
- Always getting your tyres professionally fitted
- Understanding proper driving practices to avoid rapid wear & making sure to enforce these in the workplace
Peripheral Training & Knowledge
When you first hire your forklift operators, chances are they will know how to drive a forklift and even have a forklift licence to back up their qualifications. But a licence does not necessarily equal ‘fully trained and competent.’
Working with forklifts – especially when aiming for OH&S forklift compliance – requires a range of ‘general training in specific competencies,’ according to Government legislation. By law, employers are required to provide employees with any peripheral training and knowledge that is relevant to their workplace.
Basically, what this means is that your forklift operators need to possess the full range of skills and knowledge relating to forklift trucks if you want a chance of achieving OH&S forklift compliance – not necessarily just forklift driving.
Some of this peripheral knowledge includes (but is not limited to):
- Safe forklift re-fuelling, such as how to change fuel cylinders & how to properly store fuel cylinders
- For battery electric forklifts, how to safely charge & change batteries
Adhering to OH&S forklift safety requirements does not just benefit your workers. There are a number of moral, legal and business reasons you – as an employer – should strive to make your warehouse as safe as possible.
Achieving OH&S forklift compliance takes a wide range of skills, knowledge and appropriate set-ups within your workplace. While the onus is on you as an employer, to achieve OH&S compliance ultimately relies on both managers and staff working together towards the same ends.
If you are interested on reading more about safe forklift operation in Victoria, you can find the following publications online:
- Forklift Safety – Reducing the Risks
- Forklifts – Developing a Traffic Management Plan
- Guide – Traffic Management & Forklift Safety
If you need help choosing the right forklift tyre for you – or if you have any questions regarding tyre maintenance – call Australia’s forklift tyre experts on 1300 551 001