Safety Habits - Forklift

Developing Good Safety Habits

Safety Habits Outside of the Workplace

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Have you ever watched someone walk out of the supermarket, and without even looking for vehicles, step right into the parking lot and begin walking towards their car? I think we’ve all witnessed this a time or two. Maybe there are a few of us brave enough to admit being one of those distracted and careless shoppers who’s put our life in the hands of a stranger whom we expect to be paying attention. I know I’ve done it and that’s a scary thought.

I see this happen all too often and it makes me think of how easily we can become disconnected to our surroundings, and how the potentially catastrophic consequences are just an afterthought. Think about it for a minute. While most people don’t drive faster than 5 or 10 MPH in a parking lot or in front of a store’s entrance, I’ve still seen a few people exceed that. They would never have time to stop if someone walked out in front of them. If you were teaching your children, or anyone you truly care about how to safely navigate a busy parking lot, I’m sure you would want them to develop good safety habits like making eye contact with the people behind the wheel to ensure that they are being noticed and acknowledged.

Inside of the Workplace

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Like many out-of-work scenarios, we can use this example to help us become more aware while at work. For much of the day, our production floors (as well as yours I’m sure) have personnel operating forklifts, man-lifts, and a variety of cranes to complete their work. While we train our equipment operators to always remain aware and give pedestrians the right-of-way, I’d imagine everyone agrees that it’s much easier and safer for our pedestrians to stay out of the line-of-fire than it is to have an operator attempt to stop a heavy piece of equipment without much notice.

By putting real effort into building good habits you can reduce risk caused by complacency. All of us become complacent from time to time, and no one can tell you what you should work on… Unless it’s looking for cars before walking out of the store, everyone should do that!

Developing good habits doesn’t take too much work either, just pick one thing, like making eye contact with forklift and crane operators before you walk into the area. Once this becomes a habit, start to work on a new one.

It’s easy, we just need to realize that there is improvement to be made and that we all can get a little better at preventing accidents by putting a little effort into improving our daily habits.

Check out more posts in our safety series here.

Guest post by Dave Suchey, Health, Safety, and Environment Manager at Metalwest
trailer observation cameras

Trailer Observation Cameras: Employee Safety Series

At Metalwest, safety is one of our top priorities. We are constantly making improvements to our everyday tasks to make sure our employees return home safely to their families each and every day.

One of the improvements we are currently working on is equipping our trucks with trailer observation cameras to help increase driver visibility.

Trailer Observation Cameras

trailer observation camerasAt Metalwest, we are currently placing trailer observation cameras into each of our truck trailers that is equipped with Conestoga systems. A Conestoga is a sliding tarp system that transforms a flatbed into a covered trailer. Adding cameras to the Conestoga system gives the driver visibility of the product he/she is hauling. During transit, it is a possibility for material to shift if it is not properly secure.

Unfortunately, in our industry accidents can and do happen. It is our top priority to prevent them from happening. However, steel products are heavy and sharp. If a skid of sheet or a large coil came loose during transit it could slide off the truck entirely, putting other drivers in danger. It could also slide just enough to put the individual who later unloads the truck in danger.

We recently started using Conestoga trailer covers to help ensure the quality of our material, but that also created a loss of visibility for our drivers. With these observation systems, our drivers can take advantage of all of the benefits that tarp systems provide, while knowing exactly what is going on with the product they are transporting at all times.

It is our hope that these cameras will allow our drivers to prevent any accidents before they happen. After all, we are not just about the steel. It is one more way we go Beyond Metal.

David Suchey, corporate safety manager, contributed to this article.

Safety Binders: Employee Safety Series

At Metalwest we are working to replace chain load binders with safety binders and/or ratcheting load binders to help our drivers more safely secure coils during transport.

Throughout the steel and manufacturing industries there have been many close calls and injuries that occur due to the old chain lever binders that were in use. Because employee safety is important to all of us, these close calls and injuries have proven it was time for Metalwest to switch to better technology.

Safety Release Lever Binder

The safety release lever binder is safer than other lever style load binders. They allow the user to release the binder tension without any kick back from the handle, which was a common issue with the standard lever chain binders.

Ratcheting Load Binders

Ratcheting load binders are also a safer alternative to standard lever style load binders. They help to reduce force to your body. Both options do not need a cheater bar to be utilized.

Cheater bars can be a dangerous tool. While tightening with a cheater bar it requires a lot more force and the bar can kick back onto the individual’s body. Loosening can also be dangerous. Loosening a chain with a cheater bar on a standard lever style load binder can cause the cheater bar to ricochet either back to the person operating the binder, to nearby material or equipment, or to another person in the surrounding area. All of these reasons are why we are requiring the other two style binders for our employees to use.

We want all of our employees to make it home every night to their families. At Metalwest we believe in taking extra steps and precautions to ensure everyone makes it home the way they came in in the morning. After all, we are Beyond Metal.

Special contributor: David Suchey, corporate safety manager

Reflective Uniforms: Employee Safety Series

ofr metals truck driverOur “Employee Safety Series” aims to highlight initiatives that the team at Metalwest is working on to make our work environment safe. Safety is one of our top priorities and it is important to ensure our employees have the right protective gear, tools, and knowledge to do their jobs safely.

At Metalwest we are taking a proactive approach to ensure our employees are highly visible when working in high-traffic areas and while assisting in the unloading/loading process. To assist with this initiative, Metalwest drivers are now being provided with high-visibility/reflective uniforms.

“Most of the time we see our drivers back at the office or in the shop,” said David Suchey, safety manager for Metalwest. “But we often forget that they don’t always work in such controlled environments as our facilities.”

High-Visibility/Reflective Uniforms

High-visibility/reflective uniforms are worn to help attract the attention of other truck drivers, forklift operators, crane operators and any other possible human-operated hazards. Many of the warehouses and facilities we deliver to have lower lighting that can make it difficult to see an individual walking around. Drivers also face the hazard of blind corners around many loading/unloading docks. Reflective uniforms help to minimize the risk of an accident.

“Our company cares about our drivers and we want to remain proactive about their safety out in the field,” said Suchey. “They have difficult jobs to do and making them visible at all times during the day will help ensure their safety when they are working outside of their truck.”

Driver feedback has been good, overall, according to Suchey. Metalwest is still working on supplying the uniforms to all locations. All branches should have the proper uniforms supplied by the end of the second quarter this year.

“I heard a really impactful quote that pertains to our efforts in this area, ‘The people we are working for are waiting for us to come home,’” Suchey added. “This is why we want our drivers to remain visible, their families and friends need them to come home every night.”

Check back to the Beyond Metal Buzz for more safety updates.

Arm Guards: Employee Safety Series

Using arm guards to protect arms and hands while checking slit coilEmployee safety is a top priority for us at Metalwest. We want to ensure each of our employees leaves work each night the same way they come in each morning. It is important for employees who are handling sheet metal material to be equipped with the right protective gear.

Arm guards are worn by employees who work directly with the metal, scrap, or banding. They help protect employees from being cut by sharp edges, burned, or exposed to chemicals.

Because we are constantly looking to advance the safety for our employees, Metalwest is in the process of testing a new type of arm guard for material handlers. While testing is still in the early stages, the new arm guards are proven to last longer and provide more protection than other types. They also obtain an ANSI rating of 5.

Choosing the Right Arm Guards

Climate and Comfort

All of our locations experience seasonal changes, but the changes vary from branch to branch. Some may have frigid, wet winters, while others are on the more mild side. Some may have dry, hot summers, while the others have humid ones.

The variation in climates can cause discomfort. Our material handlers are currently in the process of testing out arm guards and have positive feedback on the comfort level, but summer will determine if the reaction will be the same.

It is important to find products that protect our employees, but are also comfortable for them to wear all year long.

Using arm guards to protect arms while checking sheetCut Resistance and Injury Prevention

Another important consideration for arm guards is the level of cut resistance. Because our employees are working with thin sheet metal, cut resistance is a key component to making a decision on which arm guard is the right fit.

While there are many different hazards that employees can face on a day-to-day basis, there are a few key things to consider when looking to test or buy arm guards.

  1. Are employees working with any type of material or equipment that has the ability to cause abrasion or possibly amputation?
  2. Do workers risk being exposed to dangerous chemicals, liquids, or other harmful substances?
  3. Are employees at risk of being burned whether by heat or chemicals?
  4. Do workers pose the risk of being exposed to electrical wires or other types of electricity?

There are different types of arm guards (and gloves) suited to different needs. Because we need cut resistance at Metalwest, we require gloves/arm guards with a cut/abrasion ANSI rating of at least five.

We value our employees’ safety at Metalwest. After all, we are not just about the steel.


Collaboration with the Metalwest Safety Team.

10 Service Center and Manufacturing Safety Tips

The safety of employees is often the top priority for many service centers, and most companies doing business today. Many organizations have in place procedures and programs to ensure every employee goes home every day.

While there are many ways to ensure employee safety in manufacturing, here are 10 service center and manufacturing safety tips.

Policies, Procedures, and Preparedness

Safety policies can cover broad topics from employee responsibility to hazard assessment and corrective action. They are used as reference guidelines for employees upon hire. Policies help to show employees what is valued and expected of them and the organization.

Safety procedures cover specific activities. Some may be specific to a certain job and/or task, while others cover how to implement a policy. Safety procedures can cover, but are not limited to:

  • Basic safety rules for the company
  • Hazard reporting and assessment
  • Steps to safely complete a task
  • Protective gear/equipment
  • Chemical use
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Equipment use/safe operation

Having policies and procedures help to ensure a company, and its employees, are prepared in the event any emergency or incident were to occur. They also help to prepare employees to prevent accidents from happening.

Employee Training

The next step along the line to service center safety is employee training. After you have written policies and procedures in place, you need to train employees on how to implement them.

At Metalwest, we use an advanced safety awareness training called SafeStart as part of the companywide safety program. SafeStart helps teach employees that many incidents occur because of one’s own actions. The simple techniques used in the course help employees minimize risk of an accident.

Hands-on training is essential to ensure safe equipment use and operation. While an office employee may not need much hands-on training, an employee hired to work a forklift, overhead crane, or cut-to-length line needs a more kinesthetic learning style approach.

Take Safety Seriously

It might seem like a “duh” statement to take safety seriously, but it is true. Safety is important to ensure employees go home to their families every day.

As an organization and an employee it is important to develop good work habits so every task done is done safely. At Metalwest, safety is something our company values. It is at the core of everything we do.

In our safety handbook it says:

 Why take safety seriously?
Do it for your family. They expect you to come home in the same condition you left in.
Do it for yourself. Give yourself the satisfaction of a job well done.
Do it for your coworkers. If you’re injured and can’t be at work, an important part of the team is missing.

One’s Own Actions

While there are other uncontrollable factors that can result in an emergency or accident, employee error causes an even greater number of incidents.

Many accidents are caused when an employee becomes complacent with their job and assigned tasks. A person’s habitual and unintentional behavior, along with four key mental states (below), are almost always directly involved in workplace injuries.

  • Rushing – when you exceed the pace at which you normally perform a task.
  • Frustration – caused by personal influences, equipment problems, inadequate tools, excessive pressure, etc.
  • Fatigue – too tired to do the job safely, either physically or mentally, may cause slower reaction times or may make it difficult to concentrate.
  • Complacency – when you are familiar enough with the hazards and become less concerned about them you may ignore the consequences they present.

It is important to learn how to recognize each state and determine what can be done to minimize their impact.

Protective Gear

Proper safety gear is worn to protect you from physical hazards associated with a job or task. And although sticking to procedures and best practices is the best way to avoid hazards, proper gear can minimize the effect of accidental exposure.

Protective gear for service centers may include, but are not limited to:

  • Steel toed boots
  • Appropriate clothing
    • Supplied uniform
    • Proper fitting clothing that will not get caught
    • Flame-resistant clothing for jobs with exposure to open flames or welding
  • Cut-resistant gloves
  • Protective arm guards
  • Hearing protection
  • Safety eyewear
  • Long hair must be pulled back


Maintaining a clean and organized work area help keep the facility free from hazards. It is the responsibility of each employee to ensure the work area is tidy.

Tasks that can assist employees in maintaining a clean work environment can be anything from emptying garbage cans on a regular basis to keeping aisles, walkways, paths, stairs, etc., clear of obstructions. It can also include keeping the floors dry, rags in appropriate receptacles, tools and equipment stored properly, and forklifts and trucks free of trash.

Good housekeeping is an important factor in helping to prevent accidents. It also shows that employees take pride in where they work.

Machine & Material Safety

Machine safety can vary depending on service center (or fabrication) capabilities.

Machine guards are designed to protect the body from pinch points, flying debris, and cutting operations. All types of tools and equipment require proper guarding. Power tools, belts, shafts, cranks, and gears must have their guards properly attached.

To help ensure employee safety from machine accidents, operators should inspect equipment and tools before beginning a new shift or job.

While machine accidents can happen they are not the only aspect of processing that can be a hazard. Material processing has its own dangers.

Metal coils can weight up to 45,000 lbs., and individual skids of sheet or plate can weigh up to 15,000 lbs. Machines are designed to safely handle these heavy loads, but employees need to be mindful of the material as it is being processed. While processing any size load, keeping it under control and persons out of the line-of-fire should be a top priority.

Steel also has very sharp edges. Exposed edges can easily cut an employee who is not wearing the appropriate protective gear or someone who has become complacent.

Material Transportation

Transporting material can be done by forklifts, cranes, and trucks. It also includes the way the material is stored.

Forklifts should only be operated by employees who have been properly trained on safe operating procedures. Drives should be mindful of their speed, keeping loads low (no more than 6-8” off the ground) while traveling, parking vehicles with forks in lowered position, keeping eyes out for others, and not traveling with loads weighing over capacity.

Chains, slings, and straps play an integral role in everyday operation. These items may be used for lifting material, or keeping it on a truck. Careful inspection, proper use, and determining the correct device for the job will help keep employees safe from dangers associated with chains, slings, and straps.

Cranes are necessary when it comes to moving heavy material. A high percentage of hazards associated with crane-related material handling can be reduced by responsible use, inspection practices, and careful maintenance.

The stacking and storage of material can be extremely hazardous if not done properly. Material should be stored in designated areas while not obstructing visibility or access to a fire extinguisher or exit. When stacking, material should always be stacked in a uniform manner with larger, heavier bundles at the bottom. Make sure all material is stored on a solid foundation.

Visitors and Guests

Anyone who enters the warehouse must wear approved eye protection and footwear. Visitors and guests should be prepared with proper clothing. At Metalwest, we also recommend anyone entering the warehouse while machines are running should wear hearing protection.

All visitors must keep in mind that safety is our (and many other service centers’) first priority. We want our visitors and guests to be as safe as possible.

Accident Investigations

In the event that a workplace accident happens, regardless of the severity, it must be reported. The reasoning behind this is so that the cause can be addressed and corrective measures can be put in place to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Safety is incredibly important to all of us at Metalwest. Taking the above safety steps helps to minimize risk of an accident.