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/DOL.

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 will also add years to the life of the equipment.   Spotting a water pump problem before utilizing a forklift in the dead of summer and high temperatures will save the engine from ruin in many cases.   Keeping fluids at the correct levels including forklift battery electrolyte will keep 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 your equipment’s USER MANUAL as closely as possible in terms of daily checks on specific components narrows the list of reasons why the equipment fails when/if it does fail for some reason.  Yes, I am advising that you “read the directions” so to speak.   Not doing so leaves the equipment owner open for any interpretation or supposed cause as proposed by your forklift vendor or service company.  This can result in extensive financial costs and inconvenience that would otherwise not have been incurred by your company.

Do yourself and your company a great favor by faithfully carrying out a pre-shift inspection of any mechanical device or equipment that you are expected to use in your workplace.  It doesn’t take a long time to do and it could save the equipment, your limb or your life and the life of someone else!

For more information on pre-shift inspection requirements, go to www.OSHA.gov.