Friday, 8 November 2013

08/11/13 - Forklifting

I have a forklift licence. Well, actually, no I don’t. I thought I did.
After I graduated, having spent a couple of months washing cars on the forecourt of Perrys Vauxhall in Canterbury (a solid use of an English Literature degree, that), I got a job at Impress Publishing, a charity Christmas card fulfilment warehouse. This was also a great use of my shiny new qualifications.

Impress shifted a lot of units, so there were a couple of warehouses full of stock, with more being delivered by lorry at regular intervals. All of this necessitated a number of people who could operate forklift trucks, and I was one of those people. So they gave me a load of official training, made me take a forklift driving test with an external examiner, and gave me a certificate. Check out the hilariously gory safety video that was an integral part of the training – this was shown to us, subtitled, in total seriousness:

However, I have subsequently learned that my certificate only actually allowed me to drive forklifts while I was employed by that particular company. I’m not sure why this is. I used to be allowed to drive ’em, and now I’m not. Officially. But anyway, I did a hell of a lot of forklifting in the eighteen months that I worked in that cold, depressing warehouse, so here’s a handy JuicyPips guide to Things You Shouldn’t Do With Forklift Trucks

A colleague had a special method for pulling the perfect forklift donut. You need to put the steering on full lock, tie a strap through the wheel and around the frame, and thus make it steer itself in a circle. Then you put a box of Christmas cards on the throttle and stick it in Drive. That way the forklift performs its own donuts with no driver input at all, allowing the driver to climb out, hang off the side and wave at passers-by. This is, of course, tremendously dangerous.

Catching the corners of pallets on things
This is just annoying, really. Pallets of Christmas cards arrive tightly bound in shrink-wrap. This is like a big roll of industrial cling-film, and its strength lies in its many layers. But this strength can only survive so much punishment. If you’re absent-mindedly forklifting a pallet off a truck and haven’t noticed that you’ve caught the corner on another pallet, or on a bit of the truck, the shrink-wrap will start to stretch and split. And if you keep pulling it’ll fail entirely, meaning that as you lift the pallet down, thousands of Christmas cards will scatter all over the loading bay, greeted by a boisterous, laddish ‘waaheeeeeeeey’ from everybody around, like when you drop a pint glass in the pub. And none of the bastards will help you pick it all up.

Skewering pallets
Surprisingly easy to do, this. You see, the forks are adjustable in a number of directions. You’ve got one lever to move them up and down. There’s another lever to shift them back and forth. And there’s a third lever to tilt them to various angles. So you’ve really got to keep an eye on where you left the forks before going on to the next task, as it’s annoyingly easy to run the forks into a pallet, thereby destroying thousands of pounds worth of stock. Those hefty forks melt through Christmas cards like a hot knife through expensive, festive butter.

Lifting people up on the forks
This is number one in the Big Bumper Book of Really Fucking Stupid Forklifting Errors. But the temptation just proves too great. I mean, how hard can it be to stand still on a steel plank while someone lifts it up towards the ceiling?
We all did it, of course we did. But imagine if someone had lost their balance? What an embarrassing way to die.

Skidding back and forth
This is fun. Really only works on a gas forklift though, as they’re a lot more powerful than the crummy electric ones.
Basically what you do is this: floor the throttle, then stick it in Drive. Then immediately put it in Reverse, then Drive, then Reverse, and so on and so on. It’s the closest you’ll get to pulling a burnout in a forklift, and in the stimulus-bereft environs of the warehouse, well, it’s something to do. There’s a certain amount of kudos to be earned from owning the largest, richest skidmarks on the warehouse floor.
But management know where those marks come from. And they’re not at all happy about it.

Driving through a shutter
Yeah, don’t do this. I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen it happen.
Warehouse loading bays often have huge rolling metal shutters that can be pulled down to keep the wind out, and raised when loading/unloading is going on. These shutters are pretty expensive. And if you drive into one with your forks, they’re totally unyielding.

Oh, you really shouldn’t do this. Only a fool would take a long run up, raise the forks, get the forklift up to maximum speed, jump on the brakes to throw the tail end right into the air, then quickly adjust the height of the forks to balance the weight and freewheel along on just the two front wheels. That’s asking for trouble.

Actually, you’re probably best off just watching that safety video again. There’s a very real danger of getting sliced in two.

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