Forklift Safety

It’s worth constantly remembering that safety with forklifts is of the utmost importance as they can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.

Forklifts are industrial vehicles made to take the place of manual lifting and manual work. There are two “forks” or arms located at the front of the vehicle that are used to lift, lower, stack and unstack heavy loads. The loads are usually stacked on top of wooden pallets that the arms or forks fit into to bring a large quantity of things up or down at once. The drivers cause almost 50% of accidents involving forklifts. Normally, the driver has hit a pedestrian. Therefore, forklifts and people should not be in the vicinity of each other.

Some other forklift related accidents include:

  • Forklift tipping over and overturning
  • Collision with other vehicles or stationary objects
  • Part of the operator’s body leaning out of the cabin and hitting an object
  • The load falling off the pallets

There are things that can be done by the employee to reduce the number of forklift accidents. First, the driver should always perform a pre-safety check of the vehicle before operating. Once the driver sees that all is in tact, while driving the vehicle the driver should use safe handling procedures of the load. This includes paying close attention to the load limit of each particular forklift. Since forklifts are a gas-powered vehicle, gasoline limits and storage should be carefully observed. In addition to safe fuel use, the battery also needs to be handled and cared for properly to ensure safety.

Here are a few safety procedures that should be followed by all employees. Some of them may seem like common sense, but they are so important that they are in need of repeating.

  • Passengers on forklifts to be strictly forbidden, unless there is a separate seat provided with a restraint
  • Other people kept clear when forklift is operating
  • Operator should take care when moving between artificial and natural light
  • Load made secure and lowered to safe centre of gravity before carrying
  • Sudden stops and starts are to be avoided
  • No part of the operator’s body to protrude beyond the overhead protection
  • Ramps not to be used unless the forklift operator is trained in their use
  • Operator to remain seated and secured at all times
  • Forklift to operate within a designated area, separate from pedestrians
  • Operator to remain in the cabin when a forklift overturns

Most importantly:



In addition to checking the vehicle daily for safety hazards, the workplace should also be checked for the following:

  • Power-lines
  • Blind corners
  • Pedestrian areas
  • Low doorways
  • Uneven floors
  • Ramps
  • Overhead pipes and fittings
  • Confined spaces
  • Adequate lighting
  • Noise

Above all else, a training coarse must be completed before attempting to drive or operate a forklift. Besides formal instruction, the training must include practical training (such as demonstrations) and an evaluation of the operator in the workplace to assure that he can operate the forklift safely. Initial training content must consist of both truck-related topics and workplace-related topics.

Some truck-related topics include:

  • Operating instructions, warnings and precautions specific to the trucks the employee will be authorized to operate
  • Differences between the truck and a car
  • Truck controls and instrumentation
  • Engine or motor operation
  • Steering and maneuvering
  • Visibility
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation and use limitations;
  • Vehicle capacity
  • Vehicle stability
  • Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator must perform;
  • Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries
  • Operating limitations
  • Any other information from the forklift operator’s manual.

Some workplace related topics include:

  • Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated
  • Composition of loads and load stability
  • Load manipulation, stacking and unstacking
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated
  • Any hazardous (classified) locations, such as flammable storage areas, where the vehicle will be operated
  • Ramps and other sloped surfaces;
  • Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust; and
  • Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace.

It may seem like a huge list but if anything this shows the need to constantly refresh your training to ensure that mistakes don’t happen.