Here are some additional tips for forklift safety:
• All forklift operators should be certified in forklift safety training. Training is available from many forklift dealers and independent safety companies.
• Your forklift should be equipped with a fire extinguisher and a seat belt.
• You should perform a forklift safety check everyday. Walk around the forklift and check the following: tire damage and proper inflation, and check the mast to make sure the chains are in good shape, the rollers aren’t overly worn, the hydraulic hoses aren’t leaking and that the mast is straight.
It absolutely amazes me how many shops do not store slabs safely. There are more accidents from improper storage than anything else. There are several ways to store slabs, including an A-frame or a vertical storage rack.
The following are some requirements when storing slabs using A-frames:
• Frames should be constructed so the slabs rest at an angle to prevent tipping over.
• Slabs should be strapped to the A-frame and secured.
• It is highly recommend that the A-frames be anchored and fixed.
• The maximum load capacity of each A-frame should be marked and displayed.
• The A-frames should be spaced so that removal of slabs can be accomplished without hitting other A-frames.
• Slabs should be stored on A-frames evenly.
• A-frames should be inspected daily for cracked structural members, deformed or bent structural members, splits in wooden supports and cracked welds.
Slab Handling Equipment
There are many devices available today for lifting and moving slabs. One very common method is the overhead bridge or gantry crane, which is a crane that travels along a track to allow slabs to be moved around an indoor storage area. The following is a brief description of some additional methodologies.
Clamps: The clamping device is probably the most popular device for lifting slabs. The device works by pinching the slab as it is being lifted. These clamps are designed to lift one slab at a time. I have seen shops try to lift two or more and this is a major mistake. Care must be taken to inspect the clamp for wear and at no time should any person be under the slab as it is being lifted or moved — I have seen weak slabs break. These clamps are available in various lifting capacities. There are also several variations of these clamps including the scissor clamp.
Vacuum lifters: A little more expensive than standard clamps, these lifting devices use suction cups that are powered by a vacuum pump that is mounted to a forklift. These lifters are great if you don’t have a tilting table because they allow you to set the stone down flat on a table. Make sure you buy the proper lifter for the type of stone you are handling. Some vacuums will not work on honed or flamed stone. Also be careful when the stone is wet because the suction cups may fail. Many lifters now come with alarms that will alert you when a cup is about to fail.
Both the vacuum lifter and the clamps can be mounted to a forklift boom or an overhead or jib crane. When purchasing a boom for your forklift, make sure it is rated and there is a sticker on it that lists the capacity. This is required by OSHA.