17+ Best Forklift Safety Tips for 2023 – [Plus Data & Facts]

Most businesses offer machinery on-site to help employees do their job quickly and efficiently. One of these machines is the forklift, also known as a powered industrial truck. These machines carry large and heavy loads from one point to another so workers can take fewer trips transporting materials. A forklift can be a dangerous machine which is why we have put together this list of forklift safety tips.

Using these machines instead of having employees carry the materials themselves decreases the chances of workplace accidents. Still, accidents can happen if an inexperienced operator is behind the wheel. Thankfully, the companies that use these machines provide training to prepare all employees for operating and working around them.

If you’re wondering why learning these forklift safety tips is important, it’s because forklifts account for 10% of injuries in the workplace. Almost all forklift accidents are preventable and can be reduced by knowing how to operate and work around these machines safely. As always, forklift safety training is critical to any facility that wants to have fewer forklift accidents.

Below we cover the most important forklift safety tips and how to prevent forklift accidents to help keep you and others safe when operating any type of Powered Industrial Truck.

Yellow forklift carrying a load

Forklift Operators

Forklift operators have a list of duties and responsibilities they must follow to keep themselves and others safe. They need to have the knowledge and experience of forklift safety before they can safely operate the machinery on the job.

Employers have a responsibility to evaluate an operator’s performance to ensure they have the competency to operate powered industrial trucks before they can do so.

These are some of the key duties and responsibilities:

  • Comply with all company policies and government regulations.
  • Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times when working with hazardous materials or substances, including batteries and fuel.
  • Immediately report defective equipment to the shift supervisor for correction after carrying out forklift maintenance.
  • Working safely at all times to prevent endangering themselves, other workers, and the facility

Training for Operators

A quality forklift training program is the best way to improve forklift safety. OSHA estimates that more than half of workplace accidents can be prevented by proper training. Regular performance evaluation and supplement training with videos, software training, and other materials when necessary decrease the chance of accidents.

OSHA regulations require that employees provide:

  • Practical training and formal instruction, including classroom-based lessons
  • Hands-on training and evaluation where qualified instructors operate forklifts
  • Certification where the operator trainee is seen operating a forklift in the workplace

OSHA standards also require that employers provide refresher training a minimum of every three years. If conditions in the operating environment change or there is an incident, refresher training will be held more often.

Diagram of Forklift Safety Tips

What Are the 8 Principles of Forklift Equipment Safety?

Most accidents result from improper training. This can be avoided if each employee is properly trained by a supervisor and then continues to follow the rules implemented by the company and OSHA policy. These procedures and guidelines are covered in forklift training classes to ensure safe operation.

The guidelines can be categorized into three major categories: machine design, work environment, and user ability. These eight principles guide operators on how to use the machinery and work around other employees in the facility.

Below are the basic principles of forklift safety to remember:

  1. Forklift Certification. Receiving the proper training is the first step to being able to operate a forklift.
  2. Daily inspection of equipment. Always check parts like the mast and overhead guard for any damage before operating the machine. Also, check all of the operating tools, fluid levels, tire pressure, and any other areas of the machine for any problems such as leaks.
  3. Proper attire and safety measures. Use the grab bar and wear safety shoes when entering the lift. Always use the lights, mirrors, rear view mirrors, and horns. Seat belts should always be worn to help prevent forklift fatalities in the event of a machine overturning.
  4. 360-degree visibility. A forklift operator must always keep a safe operating distance from individuals and objects in the workspace. Keeping the forks low to the ground will provide clear forward visibility. Always be aware of other forklifts in the area when loading and operating yours by having clear visibility at all times.
  5. A floor marking system. These markings can help keep workers safe. Yellow should be used to mark physical hazards, including areas prone to falling and stumbling, and red should be used to mark fire hazards, equipment, and emergency switches.
  6. Forklift capacity. The power of the machine and any attachments need to be considered while operating. If the machine is overloaded, it can tip over and injure anyone on or near it when it tips or falls. Always make sure loads are secured and within capacity. This is one of the most important principles to follow to prevent an accident.
  7. Forklift stability. Forklifts carry their loads at the center of gravity. This design prevents them from tipping over as long as the weight distribution is even and within the machine’s weight capacity. This is known as the three-point suspension system or the stability triangle. This system or triangle covers how the heavier the load is, the further it is from its center of gravity, and the more likely the machine is to cause an accident.
  8. Forklift speed. Follow speed limit signs that are posted around the job site. Forklift fatalities can be attributed to operators who are driving too fast. Warehouse forklifts can weigh around 9,000 pounds. That weight combined with speed requires more time and distance to stop. It can take up to 51 feet to come to a complete stop. This isn’t enough when a pedestrian, object, or other driver is unexpectedly in your way.

Always operate a forklift safely according to these principles to prevent injury.

Forklift operator doing his job

Do and Don’ts of Forklift Operation – Safety Tips You Shouldn’t Forget

Safety training and forklift training provide all the necessary information you need for operating this type of machinery. Follow these dos and don’ts for safety purposes while on the job.

  • Do be aware. Operators must be aware of the height of their load, mast, and overhead guard when entering and exiting buildings.
  • Do carry out maintenance. When checking the condition of a forklift, you must test the controls including the steering wheel, brakes, lights, horn, and steering wheel. Also, check the mast and overhead guard for any previous damage. You should check all tire and fluid levels for any water, oil, or radiator leaks.
  • Do pay attention to a forklift’s stability before operating it. Your hands and shoes should be dry, and you should be sitting in a comfortable position within reach of the controls. All loose clothing should be tucked in to prevent it from snagging on any part of the machine.
  • Do follow the floor marking system. This includes wayfinders and signs that have been displayed throughout the site. Always lead machinery along forklift paths to stay out of the way of pedestrians and follow the flow of traffic. A floor marking system will segregate lanes into safe routes specifically for forklifts and mark general hazards in yellow or red so that they are easier to see.
  • Do keep hands and feet in place. Keep hands and feet clearly away from the forklift mast. Moving the mast while your hand is on it can cause serious injury. You should also keep all hands and feet away from the wheels of an unparked machine.
  • Do refuel and recharge at specially designated locations. Always remember to switch off the machine and do this in a well-ventilated area since charging or refueling a forklift can be dangerous.
  • Don’t stand or walk under parts of the machine. Avoid standing or walking under the load, lifting mechanism, or attachments. Loads can fall off and injure anyone who is under the machine at that moment.
  • Don’t use the forklift to carry passengers. They are only designed to carry loads. If a person needs to be lifted, ensure you only use a secure work platform and a cage.
  • Don’t operate forklifts in close proximity to other heavy machinery. This should only be done if absolutely necessary but should be avoided to prevent the risk of forklift accidents. Always keep a safe distance between other objects, forklifts, and people in the vicinity.
  • Don’t move in an unpredictable manner. Always keep a safe distance from others so you can stop safely. Moving unpredictability is not safe for the machine and can confuse others. This can cause an accident that can injure you or another employee or damage materials.

What is the Most Important Safety Device on a Forklift?

The most important safety device is the seat belt. This safety device prevents operators from being crushed if the machine they’re driving tips over. Sit-down rider forklifts that have been manufactured after the year 1992 are required to have a safety belt included in the design. Models older than that may not have one built-in but should have one installed.

Regularly inspecting the quality of all safety belts should be included on the supervisor’s maintenance checklist to ensure all safety belts are in good condition. Any safety belts that are worn or damaged should be replaced to enforce forklift safety.

Another essential safety device is the brakes. This is an essential feature for all motorized vehicles because, without brakes, accidents are unavoidable. A forklift should always be put in neutral with the parking brake set before lifting a load. Forklifts that are not in use should also be parked with a parking brake applied to prevent them from moving when it is not safe to do so.

The brakes should always be checked by a supervisor at the beginning of the shift to ensure they are working. If any part of the brakes is not working, that forklift should not be used until the brakes are repaired and re-inspected.

These forklift safety tips can decrease the number of preventable accidents that occur in the facility. Never underestimate the importance of a safety belt. That could be the reason you don’t get crushed under your machine when it unexpectedly tips over.

forklift in front of large stack of boxes

How to Avoid Forklift Accidents

All forklift operators should have a heightened sense of awareness while operating the machinery. Many forklift accidents can be prevented by employee awareness while on the job. Always be on the lookout for potential hazards and other employees who may be in the way.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has estimated that there are 35,000 forklift accidents resulting in serious injury every year. Forklift safety tips are necessary for keeping employees and the facility safe.

Paying Attention to Forklift Operator Training

Workers who do not have their forklift certification are not prepared to recognize common hazards that can lead to accidents. Employees who have not completed their forklift operator training are more likely to be involved in an accident than any other employee. All employees must be evaluated by their supervisor to ensure they are competent to operate a powered industrial truck.

Only those that have prior experience, knowledge, and certification have the authority to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their performance. Forklift training includes a mix of classroom training and OJT before a certificate can be received.

Not Driving at High Speeds

Driving a forklift is similar to driving other machinery. A forklift operator driving at high speed will not have enough time to brake to avoid hitting other workers or vehicles. There are recommended speeds depending on the weight of the machine and the load it’s carrying. You should also follow all speed signs posted in the facility.

Using the Right Equipment for Lifting Workers

Allowing a coworker to ride on the forklift you are operating can result in injury or a fatality. Standing on the forks to be lifted is not safe in any situation. Ramps and cages for ascending and descending should be available.

Adequately Loading Machine

Overloading a lift can cause serious injury or even a fatality if it were to tip over. A majority of preventable forklift accidents occur because the machine is overloaded and tips over. This situation can be avoided if you adhere to the capacity limits.

Paying Attention to Pedestrians Forklift Warning Sign "Watch out for Pedestrians"

By following forklift safety rules, operators can improve how they interact with pedestrians. Following designated paths prevents pedestrians and forklift operators from crossing paths and helps maintain traffic flow.

Things you should do when operating on a floor with pedestrian safety in mind include:

  • Always sound the horn when turning corners or in areas where there may not be a clear sight to alert pedestrians.
  • Make eye contact with pedestrians to ensure they have seen you and know which direction you are moving in.
  • Give pedestrians the right of way before continuing on their path to prevent any misunderstanding. Also, include verbal and physical communication, including hand signs to let pedestrians know which direction you plan to move in.
  • Remember to never drive up to someone who is in front of a fixed object. They could potentially become stuck and be injured.
  • Pedestrians also have guidelines to follow to keep themselves and others safe. This includes always walking on the right side of the aisles, keeping their distance from operating forklifts, and watching out for tail swings to avoid being pinned by the operating forklifts.

Following these forklift safety tips can prevent the risk of harm and damage in the workplace. Any powered industrial truck operations should keep worker safety as a top priority. Forklift trucks can and do cause serious injuries best safety practices should be taught to all operators.

What is the Most Common Type of Forklift Accident?

The most common type of forklift accident is forklift overturning. Not only is this the most common type of accident, but it is also the most fatal. In this type of accident, forklift operators can be crushed when the machine overturns or falls from a loading dock.

An overturn is often caused by overloading cargo or having to navigate narrow ramps or docks. A forklift’s load capacity is set as a safety requirement, not a suggestion. By adhering to the machine’s weight capacity and the stability triangle each time you operate the machine, you could save someone’s life, including your own.

Different forklift models have specific load capacities, structures, speeds, turning radiuses, and usages. You must know the specifics of the model you are operating. Hauling weight that exceeds the machine’s counterweight of the forklift can cause the rear wheels to rise off the ground. If this happens, the forklift can tip over and cause harm to employees near the machine and damage equipment and materials.

Preventing Overturning and Tip-Overs

Loads should always be balanced and fully secured to prevent them from tipping. Ensure that both forks are as far under the load as possible before lifting the load. Drive with the load as low and safely as possible, following the speed limit and posted signs. Always look in every direction. If a load blocks your view, carefully travel in reverse.

Use ropes or bindings to secure stacks and heavy loads. Make sure all pallets and skids are within the forklift’s load capacity to prevent the risk of overturning. Always handle off-center loads with caution if the load you must carry cannot be centered.

Follow These Forklift Safety Tips to Prevent Forklift Accidents

Most companies that use powered industrial trucks on the job site require their employees to use them. Certain regulations need to be followed when operating these machines in the construction industry. The model and the reason you are using it will affect some of the specific guidelines for safe operation.

Following Forklift safety tips and OSHA guidelines prevent employees from being injured or losing their lives on the job. Forklifts are extremely useful for transporting large and heavy loads, but this ability comes with many risks.

Understanding the dangers of operating forklifts on loading docks and in warehouses can prevent you from an accident. Regularly inspecting and monitoring the equipment can prevent unexpected machine malfunction accidents from occurring. All of the rules that are covered in training and in this article are essential for remaining safe on the job.