When it comes to safety in the workplace, there are many aspects that need to be adhered to. Health and Safety regulations can be quite strict when it comes to the likes of operating heavy machinery, and proper training and certification is always needed.
For machinery such as a forklift, it is essential that the user is someone who not only knows what to do, but who is also authorised to drive and operate it. In the hands of an unqualified and inexperienced operator, a forklift can be a dangerous machine, so you need to do all you can to ensure only your authorised and skilled operators have access.
This means implementing a safety precaution and procedure that is infallible. After all, it is easy enough for anyone to switch on a forklift and have a go – but there can be dire results to such actions, for both the operator and others.
Many companies that use forklifts operate a lockout tagout system for protecting them from unauthorised use. This is a procedure that is commonly used in industry for isolating dangerous machinery when it needs to be serviced or requires maintenance, and it serves its purpose very well when applied to forklifts.
How Lockout-Tagout Works
The idea behind lockout-tagout – also known as LOTO – is that it prevents anyone but a single authorised operator from accessing the machinery involved, in this case a forklift. The system works by making the operator the responsible party, and by following a set routine when it comes to shutting down at the end of a shift.
LOTO is widely used in industry when a machine needs to be shut down for maintenance. In this instance, a designated operator is given the responsibility of performing the shut-down, locking the access to the power source, and placing a tag on the lock acknowledging that they – and they only – are the person responsible for starting things up again.
The same principle can be applied to a forklift, which when turned off at night, can be locked, tagged and the keys kept with the designated user. It should happen like this:
- Announce end of day’s use
- Identify power source
- Isolate power source
- Lock and tag power source
- Check that routine has been effective
In fact, this is the routine that goes with shutting down a machine for maintenance; for a forklift, the procedure is effectively the same, but the user returns it to its charging dock, switches off and locks the starting mechanism, places the tag, and keeps the key on their person.
There should be no occasion when an unauthorised person is given access to the starting procedure for the forklift, as that would invalidate the lockout-tagout procedure. To learn more about it, you can contant Lockout Safety.
Why Lockout-Tagout is Important
There are so many rules, regulations and laws relating to health and safety in the workplace that it is easy to get bogged down in the minor details, but when it comes to managing machinery such as forklifts, it is also about the personal safety of the user and of other personnel.
Using LOTO means that there is no possibility of anyone other than the designated user getting the machine moving, and so the responsibility for any oversights – which should not happen if the procedure is correctly adhered to – stays with the designated user. Using special lockout-tagout locks can be of help.
Employers should endeavour to keep their team up to date with the very latest in lockout-tagout procedures, both for forklifts and for other items of heavy machinery, as there can be changes in the regulations that may mean amendments are needed to your local quality standards.