How to Safely Use A Forklift Ramp
A yard ramp needs to be used correctly or it becomes a liability rather than an asset. Since ground-to-dock ramps and ground-to-truck ramps are basically simple tools a lot of the safety and its correct use is common sense. But sometimes in the workplace “common sense” is not easy to find…therefore let’s spell out some no-brainers as well as some less obvious best-practices.
- Speed – Going too fast is dangerous and hard on the equipment. Just like with a motor vehicle on the highway the speed of a forklift truck should be controlled at a level in keeping with conditions. Sometimes that speed is mandated by a facility manager or safety committee but in many instances the driver himself should keep the speed down to manage specific conditions. Inertia is a huge component of using this type of equipment. The more something weighs the more it takes to stop it and the further it travels before coming to a stop. Also the grade changes when a forklift truck transits from the ground to the yard ramp – that impact is hard on the forktruck and on the ramp. Yardramps built by Brazos Manufacturing are engineered considering this impact zone and materials added.
- Direction & Turning – The two greatest hazards when traveling on an incline are “tipovers” where the forktruck, load and driver turn over…..and “loosing all or part of your load”. OSHA rightly states that you should never turn on an incline. Doing so is like multiplying your speed and then swerving. There should be adequate clear space at the bottom and top of the loading ramp to maneuver a straight path. You should always transit the incline (up or down) with the load pointing up. This means that you back down the ramp. This has everything to do with balance on the truck as well as backguards supporting the loads.
- Manage Incline – Ever piece of equipment has an envelope in which it is designed to work efficiently and safely. Industrial forklift trucks measure that as percentage of grade. To determine the percent of grade: divide rise by the run of ramp. Run is not the length of the ramp. The distance horizontally (not along the slope) from the top of the ramp to the bottom. Here is a typical calculation regarding a ground-to-dock ramp.
- Dock Height = 54″ (4.5′)
- Ramp Length 30′ (run 29′-8″)
- Equals 20% Grade
Your lift truck will have limits based on weight centers, under-clearance and power.
- Other considerations include
- Don’t start or stop while on the incline
- Maintain visual control of situation
- Watch for spills or wet conditions
- Don’t park on an incline
- Don’t allow two pieces of equipment or two people on the incline
Ground to dock operation are the same. The management of incline comes when you set the specifications for the application. This is a viable way to get equipment from the dock height to ground height. Many companies keep vehicles (autos, trucks, etc) inside. This is an cost effective way to do that.
There are a number of sources to help set the rules and help train you and your employees regarding the use of power equipment on ramps, around dock areas and moving thru warehouses and manufacturing areas. One is the OSHA website at OSHA.Gov. Another good way is to call us at Brazos or call one of the material handling dealers that rely on Brazos for quality dock products. Either way you get a partner to help you do your best.
Here is a list of articles about our products, how they are built and how to best use them