Top 10 Forklift Safety Tips

Forklift safety should be the number one priority in a workplace. Each year, more than one-third of the deaths attributed to forklifts are pedestrians. Roughly 100 deaths per year are caused by forklifts, 36% are pedestrians, 16% are crushed by the forklift, 20% struck by the forklift and the rest are all other accidents. Other forklift accidents lead to significant damage and injuries; and many are totally avoidable. To start your safe forklift operation, Contact us today!

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OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulates forklift use. Simple things like the proper use of forklift marking signs and forklift marking tape to designate forklift crossings can even save lives. The following 10 forklift safety tips will help you reduce accidents and help those you work with stay safe.


Top 10 Forklift Safety Tips


When it comes to forklift safety in your workplace, you have to be proactive and always determine ways to mitigate risks. In this video there are 10 basic effective tips to improve health and safety in your warehouse and to keep your workers safe. Most injuries or accidents are avoidable.


Here are our top ten forklift safety tips. Click on the links below to find out more about each tip.


  1. Inspect Your Forklift
  2. Warn and Protect Pedestrians
  3. Move Slow
  4. Keep Your Forks Low
  5. Move Your Load Low
  6. If You Can't See, Drive Backwards
  7. Secure Your Forklift Load
  8. Keep People off Load and Forks
  9. Study the Manual
  10. Forklifts and Drugs or Booze Don't Mix

1. Inspect Your Forklift


forklift safety


Daily inspection of your forklift is always the first safety tip that is a "must do". A forklift undergoes immense amounts of stress, for this reason OSHA 1910.178(q)(7) mandates that every forklift and lift truck undergo a in-depth daily inspection before every shift. When you operate a forklift, you are taking responsibility for machinery and you must look for anything that is out of the ordinary, such as:

  • forks are not bent
  • no fluid drips
  • hoses are secure
  • no damaged overhead guard
  • seat belt works
  • tire wear or damage
  • floor clear of objects
  • fire extinguisher is present
  • loose or broken wires

By performing these daily inspections, it allows you to find defects and prevent accidents. A good rule when doing the visual inspection is to use some of your senses. Listen for strange noises, Smell for smoke and Look for defects and anything unusual.


2. Warn and Protect Pedestrians


Forklift Training


Workplace safety requires some thinking ahead and providing a forklift safety system for pedestrians, forklift operators and visitors. Forklift safety protocol is a powerful way to protect your people. It can include safety measures from creating pedestrian lanes using marking tape and warnings signs, to installing guards to block sensitive areas to protect against the chance of impact. Eliminate the risk of injury or death and create a safe workplace with the items below:

  • Signs and markings
  • Warning lights
  • Guards, rails
  • Lighting
  • Mirrors
  • Parking Zone
  • Loading Dock Safety
  • Speed Bumps
  • PPE Kit

The blue warning forklift light is a bright blue circle of light on the floor warns workers of an approaching vehicle. Pedestrians may not see or hear industrial traffic. In this video it will show you how the blue safety light can save a pedestrian so they can go home to their family.


Companies should care about all employees because pedestrian accidents are among the leading causes of injury and death in a warehouse. Where forklifts work, pedestrians are at risk. Creating a safe forklift system in your warehouse will make minor warehouse hazards a thing of the past.


3. Move Slow


Forklift Safety


Go slowly and be careful on lift trucks; it will give you time to react without causing a catastrophe. It is not easy to tell a forklift driver to slow down, but you must find a way to implement the practice of not driving faster than a walk. Post clearly marked forklift speed limit signs in and around the facility where the forklifts usually pass. Forklift operators need to use judgement based upon the specific load, traffic conditions, and other variables. The operator may need to go slower than the limit established to perform efficiently and safely. Basically it's the same thing we do in our cars every day ( well, some of us). There is new technology that has a speed sensor that can govern the speed of the engine. If owners and management would instill the same fear as getting caught speeding, not wearing seat belts or smoking in a workplace with the same consequences, they could control how fast forklift operators drive making the workplace safer. Watch this video for more to learn that traffic management and exclusion zones are for everyone's safety Moving around safely during loading and unloading.


4. Keep Your Forks Low


Forklift Safety


When driving a forklift typically in a warehouse the forks should be above the ground at a height of 6 to 8 inches, approximately the same height that will go through a wooden pallet. If you scrape the floor surface, your forks are too low. When you reach an incline or slope it can be dangerous, that is why when traveling on a slope, drive the forklift in reverse. Even if there is no load, keep the forks as low as possible. If you have an accident involving a person and your forks are low, the person's legs will most likely be injured, but if the forks are high you could spear someone's abdomen or chest and kill them. Also knowing your path of travel can give you an insight into how high your forks should be.

When parking your forklift, leave the forks on the ground level, tilted forward so they are not raised at all. Forks on the ground are a trip hazard, however you get a chance to lift your foot as you trip to recover your balance. Reducing accidents but whats more important is reducing the severity of injuries when accidents do happen.


5. Move Your Load Low


Forklift Safety


To handle a load safely you must remember that forklifts are top-heavy, therefore you need to carry the load low and tilted back against the backrest. By doing this, you move the center of gravity towards the rear of forklift making it more secure when driving. If the load is too high it wobbles more and there is a higher risk the forklift could flip, injuring or killing the operator as well as damaging the load. Keep the load low.

Do not raise forks when driving. The operator's view will be obstructed and more likely to cause a serious accident. Forklifts should be at the required height, enough to clear the terrain, but not too high to hit something or someone. Spread the forks as wide as possible for even distribution and load stability. Always ensure the forks face uphill when traveling up or down slopes with a load. It is a good practice to put the fork arms just below the front axle of the forklift and it should be as close to the ground as possible.


6. If You Can’t See, Drive Backwards


Forklift Safety


If you can't see what's in front of you, avoid the temptation to raise your load above line of site. Again, when a load is high, you risk forklift tip over. The proper thing to do is go in reverse with the load low and keeping an eye to the sides and front. You don't want to hit anything with your forks or the pallet. Good visibility sets up a driver to make better decisions and operate their forklift safely around pedestrians, storage racks, and machinery. Frazzled or distracted drivers whose sight is impaired will have accidents.

There are few other options if your visibility is poor:

  • do not continue driving, get a lockout helper to assist you
  • add a back up camera system that helps drivers see where their eyes can not.

If you chose to drive a forklift with an obstructed view, it could land you a five day suspension as shown in the story below.

7. Secure Your Forklift Load

If you work with forklifts, selecting the right equipment to lift and transport loads will keep your people safe. Watch this video for simple steps to handle loads safely. Unstable loads, unloading and loading improperly, and operating at inappropriately high speeds can cause serious injuries.


Don't try to pick up a load unless it has been secured by wrapping or banding. The load should be correctly stacked and positioned across both forks to prevent the load from falling off the forklift. Ensure the load is as centered as possible on the forklift and distribute the heaviest part of the load nearest the front wheels of the forklift. A wrapped or strapped single load is much easier to control than lots of boxes each falling in every direction.

You might have more difficulty than usual if you are moving something that is an unsymmetrical shape, it can be more challenging. Distribute the weight evenly when carrying irregular sized loads. You must take extra care when moving objects that are prone to toppling. You should also not use damaged, decayed, or deformed pallets and skids. Remember, falling loads can cause injury and damage.


8. Keep People Off Your Load and Forks



You've probably seen it before - people standing on the forks raising them in the air. Don’t do it. Using your forks for anything other than what they’re made for can cause serious damage. You cannot anticipate what people will do, those forks could kill someone if you accidentally move them. Do not carry a passenger unless the forklift is designed to carry more than one person which means it has an additional seat, footrest, and seat belt. Standing, working or walking under the raised forks should also not be allowed. You could kill a person or break their neck if you lower your load or the forks onto them.

Forklifts are designed for carrying loads only. There is no excuse for not observing simple safety practices. Raising people on forks is extremely risky and dangerous. Incorrect safety procedures can have a serious impact on lives, families, and businesses. The workplace should have a zero tolerance approach to the unsafe use of forklifts – one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment found at a workplace. You as a forklift operator are responsible.


9. Study the Manual


Forklift Safety


Working safely should be at the top of your list so read, study and keep the forklift operator manual with the lift truck at all times. The manual information is vital and must be clearly understood by the operator. Whenever a question arises regarding your lift truck, the manual will be handy. Hitting a wrong switch at the wrong moment could lead to tragedy. You and others around you can be seriously injured or even killed if you don't know how to use the forklift correctly. Every manual is specific to each forklift and can not be interchanged. The forklift manual contains basic rules for the safe operation and manufacturers recommended operating procedures. It helps you observe all warning plates, decals, and how to use the forklift safely. Learning the safe way to operate a forklift may save your life.

10. Forklifts and Drugs or Alcohol Don’t Mix


Forklift Safet


You don't want to be in the path of someone who's operating a forklift while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drinking, drugs, and working don't mix. A forklift is already difficult enough to operate when sober. There are many dangers that come with mixing two or more drugs. Whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, alcohol or street drugs, it reduces your ability of operating a forklift. Side effects of drugs include drowsiness, fatigue, stress and altering one's judgement which may cause a serious or deadly accident.

Now that our society is changing with the new legalization of marijuana, we are facing a bigger risk for forklift accidents to happen unnecessarily. As it comes close to legalizing marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use, employers are challenged with adapting their policies and programs. Employers will need to make their company's position very clear about alcohol and drugs and what course of action will be taken if the policy is not followed. Either they will need to educate their workers on a regular basis throughout the year or they will need to implement drug testing. According to a recent survey, about 10% of Canadian worksites and 18% of BC worksites with 100 or more employees have drug testing programs. These programs are much more common in the United States, where legislation in the 1980s made drug testing more widespread in all types of companies. In Canada, drug testing is primarily conducted in situations where safety is a concern.

Driving a forklift under any influence of drugs or alcohol affects productivity, absenteeism and can cause serious injuries or death, not only for the driver but for all other workers and visitors. Forklifts and drugs or alcohol don't mix and can have unpredictable and unwanted consequences.

OSHA Safety Signs

Did you know that OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires specific ANSI labeling in the workplace? In fact there's a long list of labels and signs that industrial employers are required to display to help protect workers from hazards as shown in this video.


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