Numerous musculoskeletal, and other injuries, occur when getting on and off lift trucks. However, taking some simple steps can help reduce the risk of incident or injury.
In many applications, operators are getting on and off a lift truck, or warehouse truck, multiple times during a shift. However, even experienced operators are guilty of doing this on ‘autopilot’, failing to consider the risks and often developing bad habits over time.
While mounting and dismounting techniques will vary depending on the design of the truck, adhering to best practise and delivering the correct training can help ensure that safety isn’t compromised. Day to day supervision of operators also plays a vital role. Skilled, trained supervisors should be on the front-line to identify when operators are not following processes and ensure that any issues can be addressed.
To reduce risk when mounting and dismounting a lift truck, employers and supervisors should consider the following:
Before you start
- It goes without saying that employers must ensure that the operator is properly qualified before they allow them to drive a lift truck. However, they should also check that the operator’s training has included a demonstration of correct mounting and dismounting procedures. It’s recommended that trainees have a chance to get on and off a truck under supervision during their training so that their technique can be assessed and corrected by a qualified instructor.
- All trucks are different, even those of the same type or from the same manufacturer. Employers and supervisors should refer to the manufacturer’s operator manual for specific advice on mounting and dismounting the truck so that operators are suitably trained for the particular truck(s) that they will be using.
- Pre-use inspections are not always done properly, if at all, but these are vital for safety. An operator must be trained to conduct routine pre-use inspections before using a lift truck. This will include a visual inspection of key parts of the truck that must be done before the truck is mounted.
- Employers must ensure the required protective clothing is being worn. Operators should also be taught about what should not be worn when operating a truck. For example, hanging jewellery can cause a number of risks and items like phones and keys should always be removed from back pockets.
Getting on board
- Operators should always check the environment and the floor around the truck as debris and uneven surfaces can cause slips and trips. They should also be aware of other vehicles, pedestrians and even existing loads on the forks, all of which pose different safety considerations.
- The truck’s state of repair should be checked and operators should consider how this may affect mounting and dismounting. For example, does extra care need to be taken due to erosion on non-slip surfaces? They must also be trained to alert a safety issue to a supervisor, such as if they find that a surface is too slippery or a handle is loose.
- Lift truck operators should always face the truck when getting on and off and if steps are available they must be used. Good secure hand and foot holds should be established for stability and operators should always maintain three points of contact with the truck when mounting/dismounting.
- Your operators’ protective clothing may be loose or bulky clothing, such as overalls or padded jackets. Make sure they are reminded that these can catch when getting on and off the truck so they should take extra care.
In the cab
- Operators must adopt the correct operating position by using all of the available adjustments, such as those for the seat, steering column and armrests. Proper training should ensure that they know what these are, and how to do them properly. These adjustments are important for both safety and ergonomics and must be done before travelling anywhere in the truck.
- An operator should always sit down in the seat, lean forward and shift their hips to the back of the seat to set the spine in correct alignment. The seat should be adjusted by sliding it forwards so that their feet are resting comfortably and the pedals are within easy reach. This practice may seem inconsequential but is actually a vital part of avoiding a number of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders related to posture.
- The seat should be set to a comfortable height, checking for adequate head clearance and maximum vision while ensure that pedals are still within easy reach for the operator. They must also ensure the weight limit setting is correctly adjusted
- To eliminate the need to lean forward, which can contribute to musculoskeletal issues, the steering wheel should be adjusted so that the steering wheel is within easy reach of either hand at the furthest point away from the body. Likewise, to avoid excessive bending of the head and neck, the backrest should be adjusted to a position slightly tilted backwards. Mirrors should also be adjusted as required.
- If a safety belt is available it should be worn. Seatbelts are a legal requirement on most trucks since 2002 and for older trucks with any risk of overturning, operator restraining systems should be installed. Employers should be considering this as part of ongoing risk assessment and health and safety audits.
- Finally, operators should ensure that all areas of the body are within the cabin before the truck starts moving. Failure to sit within the cab fully increases the risk of injury, both to the operator and to others within the operating environment.
- Operators should ideally find an even surface for dismount as landing awkwardly can result in injuries, such as ankle, lower leg and wrist problems. Floor debris or spillages in the area of dismounting can also lead to slips and falls, so it’s vital that operators check for this.
- Lift truck operators should, of course, check for other traffic before exiting the cab. Unsurprisingly, other vehicles pose one of the biggest injury risks to anyone in a handling environment.
- Finally, operators should never jump down from the truck. As with mounting a truck, three points of contact should be maintained during dismount for stability and to protect from musculoskeletal injury. Supervisors should be paying attention to how operators mount and dismount trucks every day to ensure that bad habits, like jumping from the cab, do not develop.
For more information on lift truck, or other types of material handling equipment, operator training that improves safety and efficiency contact our Solutions & Service team on +44(0)1952 520207, or download one of our free useful guides.