A Safety-First Approach to Refueling a Forklift

A Safety-First Approach to Refueling a Forklift

Acute inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO) gas is considered to be one of the most frequent causes of occupational fatality in the United States, according to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), US National Library of Medicine (NLM). The fact that CO is a colorless and odorless gas makes it extremely hard to detect and therefore it is also dubbed as “the silent killer.”

According to the NCBI/NLM resource, fuel-powered forklifts are one of the common sources of CO poisoning. It is, therefore, extremely important for an employer to put in adequate safeguards around the use of forklifts, especially during the refueling process.

Even a small thing like using a high-quality safety valve can help prevent accidents during forklift refueling, which involves the use of dangerous gases. For instance, experts at Clark Cooper recommend a specific solenoid valve for hydrogen gas that can withstand its greater pressures, in comparison to other liquids or gases.

Follow OSHA Guidelines to the Letter

Did you know that workplace forklift training is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), under the US Department of Labor? There is already a set of guidelines by OSHA that act as best practices that every industrial unit should follow. These include forklifts with:

ü      Internal Combustion Engines

While forklifts with internal combustion engines are easier to refuel, a great amount of caution needs to be exercised while doing so to avoid spills and leaks. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • As a standard operating procedure, all hydraulics must be checked beforehand, along with the levels of oil and water, even before commencing the refueling operation.
  • It is a good time to check for any leaks that might have occurred in the battery, cylinder or fuel system.
  • Adequate ventilation is important and therefore the refueling must not occur in an area that is poorly ventilated.
  • You must be alert to unusual noises or excessive vibrations.
  • The color of the exhaust can reveal a lot. For instance, black smoke might be a sign of incomplete combustion.

ü      Liquid Petroleum Gas

  • Avoid confined areas, since LPG is heavier than air and can collect in low lying areas, thereby increasing the chances of an explosion, when it is accidentally exposed to heat.
  • LPG trucks must not be parked near heat sources.
  • The service valve must always be turned off when the forklift is parked for a long period of time.
  • LPG containers must always be handled by trained and authorized personnel only.

ü      Diesel and Gasoline

  • Safe locations should be earmarked for the refueling operation, preferably outdoors.
  • Refueling should not be carried out near heat sources, since that could lead to an explosion.
  • The engine must be switched off during the refueling process.
  • Transmission must be put to Neutral and the parking brakes applied.
  • No one should smoke while the refueling is in progress.
  • Keep an eye on the fuel levels. Avoid letting the forklift run out of fuel completely or being too low on fuel, since sediments can be drawn into the fuel system.
  • Do not fill the tank right to the top. Leave some space because fuel tends to expand when heated.

In addition, you must also be aware of the safety instructions as prescribed in the operator’s manual and comply with those guidelines as well. Remember, it is a federal offense for anyone below the age of 18 to operate an industrial forklift or for anyone above 18 years to operate it without proper training and certification.

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