Having a well-trained staff on hand when operating a forklift within your warehouse is critical to maintaining an atmosphere of safety and adherence to the rules. This helps avoid accidents and injuries, which can drive up company costs. Proper forklift maintenance can also prevent the need for constant purchases of forklifts. Here we explore three ways to reduce your warehouse costs.
1. Train your staff how to safely operate forklifts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), turnovers are the top cause of fatal accidents involving the use of forklifts in the U.S., representing 25 percent of all deaths involving this machinery. Furthermore, each year 100 employees are killed and 20,000 are hurt in incidents involving a forklift. While you would think it goes without saying, sometimes it simply needs to be said: Operators should never use a forklift unless and until they are trained on how to properly maneuver one.
Make your employees aware of the risks of operating this type of vehicle and even the risks of working near someone operating this vehicle. Post the procedures determined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA sets the standards in the industry as to the guidelines that need to be followed for proper operation. It's imperative you offer a training program for all new employees who are going to be operating such a vehicle. A refresher course each year is wise as well.
Anyone under the age of 18 who operates a forklift is in violation of federal law, as is anyone over the age of 18 who hasn't been properly trained in the safe operation of a forklift. Enforce rules in your warehouse, such as the use of seatbelts, speed limits, adequate lighting and alarms. Your goal as the owner of a warehouse should be to enter the safety zone: increased productivity, fewer safety claims, lower workers' compensation costs and sky-high employee morale. With properly trained personnel, you likely see fewer injuries on the job, leading to fewer workers' compensation claims that you have to pay out. In addition, your insurance premiums aren’t as high and you don't have to pay for time off as your employee recovers.
2. Keep up with regular maintenance on your forklifts.
You can't avoid the fact that your machinery and equipment get old and break down. That's unavoidable. However, you can extend the life of your forklift fleet by ensuring the equipment gets regular checkups, maintenance and repair to keep it in top working order. This increases worker productivity because you are able to operate the machinery more often. If you simply let your forklifts go without maintenance, you pay more in downtime later, while a forklift undergoes costly repairs or when a new purchase must be made.
Awareness is the single-most important factor to driving down warehouse costs. If you work methodically through the four phases of maintenance—suspicion, data, recognition and change—you can stay on top of repairs and handle them before they become a problem.
3. Limit product damage in your warehouse through proper handling and improved layout.
Damage to products within your warehouse can be a very costly ordeal. You have to eat the cost of whatever was destroyed and replace it on your own dime. The cleanup also slows down production and costs you on that end as well.
Product damage usually occurs as a result of other types of damage, involving pallets, racks or forklifts. Employ extra support on all racking systems, purchase higher quality pallets, lay out your warehouse floor in easy-to-navigate grids, ensure your forklifts are properly balanced with top-notch ergonomics and allow your forklift operators plenty of time for breaks to refresh.
Take all of these factors into consideration when aiming to reduce your warehousing costs.
Tom Reddon is a forklift specialist and blog manager for the National Forklift Exchange. He also sits on the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA) Executive Dialog team. Connect with him via Twitter at @TomReddon.