Opinion

Why Pre-Shift Inspections are Critical

Outside Forklift Trainer Most equipment in use in business that involves the operation by a human being will involve a “pre-use” inspection.  For tractor trailers, for example, a “pre-trip” inspection is standard operating procedure.  For material handling equipment such as forklifts, man-lifts, overhead cranes in their various configurations and model types, a “pre-shift” inspection is the norm and even required by OSHA and the Department of Labor. The benefits are obvious as to why, even without an official regulation or mandate, a pre-use check of this equipment is a “good idea”.   First, the equipment is normally used by many operators be they short term or for long shifts between just a few people.  In most cases, multiple people will operate the single piece of equipment.   Human beings are naturally void of a sensory system that can easily detect a defect or deficiency in mechanical things no matter how familiar we are with them.  We just aren’t equipped physically to know when brakes are about to give way, the engine or power source is about to fail or the lifting mechanisms are about to break free.   Our sensory systems are not capable of making these predictions and we often find ourselves operating such equipment with a very naïve sense of security and complacency.   Add to these facts the more important fact that safety with this equipment is a minute by minute and hour by hour type reality.   At any moment and for no apparent or logical reason, mechanical things fail, break, falter and quit without warning. The pre-use or “pre-shift” inspection is the real time adversary of the unplanned mechanical failure.  The inspection will provide the feedback to the operator that he/she would not otherwise receive by NOT doing the inspection.   The simple 3-5 minute review of the current state of the equipment could make the difference entirely between an accident, catastrophe or fatality or simply a “downed” piece of equipment for the day.   Performed diligently and honestly, the inspection can literally prevent or even eliminate accidents caused by mechanical failure in your workplace. The pre-shift inspection adds years to the life of the equipment.   Spotting a water pump problem before utilizing a forklift in the dead of summer and high temperatures saves the engine from ruin in many cases.   Keeping fluids at the correct levels including forklift battery electrolyte keeps internal components from being overly taxed and abused in carrying out the hour by hour functions of the equipment.    For diagnosing problems, following manufacturer’s guidelines contained in the vehicle USER MANUAL narrows the list of possibility of equipment problems.   Not following the manufacturer’s guidance for vehicle maintenance and performance is extremely costly. Faithfully carrying out a daily pre-shift inspection of any mechanical device or equipment in the workplace is not much to ask of the assigned operator.  Operator inspections takes only minutes and diligent completion of the task can save the life of the operator and other workers nearby. For more information on pre-shift inspection requirements, go to www.OSHA.gov.