Forklift Safety Tips

31 Mar 2016

forklift accidents - simons ms

Heavy machinery, including forklifts, are one of the greatest hazards in the workplace. It’s important that all operators keep on top of and stay familiar with the safety precautions, regulations and features of the vehicles they handle. No matter how small, forklifts still pose as a major workplace risk factor if safety is overlooked or corners are cut. We’ve put together a list of forklift safety tips to help avoid injuries and accidents:

Qualified operators only

Only individuals who have acquired proper training, authorisation and licensing can operate materials handling equipment.

Thorough pre-operational check

As a crucial safety precaution it is important to undergo a full pre-operational vehicle check before commencing a shift. Here are some key areas to inspect:

  • Tyre condition and inflation
  • Reversing lights, headlights, flashers
  • Reversing beeper, horn
  • Brakes, hand brake and inching pedal
  • Gauges: check all instruments
  • Battery connections and lever
  • Fuel and coolant levels
  • Leaks: fuel, oil, hydraulics, transmission
  • Body damage, mast damage
  • Load centre
  • Unit centre of gravity
  • Fully manoeuvrable
  • Condition of tynes and lifting assembly

Protective clothing

Individuals operating a forklift should always be wearing safe and appropriate clothing only. This includes:

  • Hi-visibility shirts or jackets, enclosed safety shoes and hard hats when appropriate.
  • No loose clothing which can become caught or interfere with controls.
  • Never operate a machine with wet or greasy shoes or hands.

Training top-ups and updates

In good practice, a forklift operator should regularly revisit their training requirements and keep on top of any necessary changes or updates. This is especially important if the working facility is modified or safety regulations are changed.

Vehicle capacity

Overloading a forklift beyond vehicle specification or incorrectly balancing a load poses as a major safety risk. Exceeding the vehicles weight capacity or placing a lop-sided or unbalanced load onto the vehicle may cause the machine to give way or tip over, causing potential injury to personnel or damage to goods and equipment. It is important that drivers understand the capacities of the forklift and comply with them carefully.

Variations between models

Not all forklifts are the same. The way a forklift operates can vary significantly from model to model, and for safety reasons it is extremely important that a forklift operator familiarises themselves with the features of the model they are using. It is not safe to assume that you will be familiar with a new machine.

Regular repairs and maintenance

All materials handing equipment should be regularly serviced to maintain full functionality and to ensure all equipment is in safe working order at all times. Forklift servicing should be carried out regularly and any defects which are detected should be rectified as soon as possible.

Driving sensibly

It is incredibly important that a forklift operator drives in a sensible manner. This means sticking to the required speed limit, manoeuvring slowly around turns/corners, reversing down ramps and inclines and staying clear of pedestrians and other vehicles. Just like in any other vehicle, reckless driving is a major risk to both the driver and those around.

Unattended vehicles

A running forklift should never be left unattended. If the operator is moving away from the equipment it must be switched off completely and parked out of the way of traffic with the forks flat on the floor, especially if it is not in the direct vision of the operator.

Clear visibility

It is necessary for the forklift operator to maintain all round clear visibility when operating the forklift.

  • Loads should be carried close to the floor for good forward vision.
  • If the load restricts forward view, the forklift should be driven in reverse. Except up inclines.
  • There should be a good view of the rack or top of a stack when positioning a load.
  • Have a lookout or helper to advise movement if the visibility is obstructed.


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