Top 5 Forklift Operator Safety Tips

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Forklifts are very helpful tools in just about every type of business.  They can be used to lift everything from lumber and steel to dog food and paint.  They can reach up to 400″ into racking or can be used to lift 50,000 lbs just a few feet of the ground.  There are so many different ways to use a forklift that they have become indispensable to commerce around the globe.

The one thing every forklift operator must do, however, is be safe and make sure the forklift is in good working condition and is being operated in a safe manner.

Here are five helpful tips to keep your forklifts operating safely all time.

1 – Daily Inspection

Before the start of every shift a forklift should be inspected by the operator. For the operator’s own safety, the safety of others working in the area, and for the safety of the building and environment in which the forklift is operating, the operator should walk around the forklift and check the following items before operation.

  • Hoses – make sure the hoses are securely connected to the forklift and the attachment. Also look for damage on the hose casings and for breaches in the line. Loose fittings can cause leaks and can cause hydraulic oil to spray from the lines on the operator, people nearby, on products nearby, and on the floor.  The pressure from the spray can be dangerous and ingesting the hydraulic fluid or getting it in your eyes is also hazardous.  Having hydraulic fluid on the floor creates a slip hazard. And getting hydraulic fluid on a product can be dangerous for the customer and the next person to handle the product.
  • Overhead guard – the operator should walk around the forklift and look for damage to the overhead guard. The overhead guard protects the operator from falling objects, and a damaged overhead guard weakens that protection.
  • Tires – the forklift’s tires and wheels should be free from severe damage and not worn past the manufacturers’ recommended wear threshold. Tires with flat spots or large chunks missing cause the forklift to drive unsteadily which can dislodge the load and can also interfere with steering and safe operation.
  • Forks – the forklift’s forks should be inspected for wear and damage. The two places to check for wear are at the heels and the tips. The fork heels should not be worn beyond 90% of the thickness of the vertical portion of the fork.  The tips should also be inspected for wear because as a fork tip wears, the fork becomes shorter and so may not handle loads as safely as it did before it was worn.
  • Lights – make sure lights are working and secure if the forklift has lights.

You can use our Forklift Operator Daily Checklist.

2 – What To Do With The Forks

Forklift forks should always be in the correct position whether the forklift is stationary, moving, or lifting.

  • Forks in Stationary Position – the forklifts’ forks should be placed flat on the ground or floor (as shown in the photo) when the forklift is in park or is Jungheinrich ETR230D used forkliftstationary. No part of the fork should be off the ground.  Forks that are off the ground create a serious trip hazard and can also cause injury if a pedestrian walks into them. The fork tips should be tilted towards the ground and the forks heels should also be flush with the ground.
  • When Forklift is Moving – most of the time when a forklift is moving the forks should only be as high off the ground as needed to travel safely.  This is about 2-3″ in most cases. Driving a forklift with forks a few feet in the air can obstruct sight lines and also makes for a very dangerous situation for pedestrians in the area. Forks that are a few inches off the ground can injure a pedestrians foot, ankle, or lower leg – not something anybody ever wants to have happen.  But driving with the forks a few feet off the ground could cause a much more severe or even fatal injury to a pedestrian.
  • When Lifting – the forks should only be raised when necessary and should be lowered as soon as safely possible.

3 – Tip Situations

When a sitdown forklift is tipping the operator should remain in the forklift with her hands on the steering wheel.  Attempting to exit the forklift or holding onto the overhead guard is very dangerous and can result in serious injury.

Forklifts are extremely heavy and dense machines and attempting to leap from them can cause the operator to become trapped or crushed under the weight.

4 – Using the Horn

When forklift operators are certified to use a forklift they are taught to use the horn when approaching doorways, warehouse intersections, turns, and nearby pedestrians.

The operator must honk the horn or give an audible signal when approaching the above situations so that other forklift operators and pedestrians in the area know you are approaching.

Doing so prevents injury to pedestrians and other operators, and damage to the load being carried and the other forklifts.

5 – Reading the Data Tag

The data tag provides the forklift operator with a lot of important information such as the lifting height and capacity of the forklift.U224326 Cat 2C6000 used forkliftU224326 Cat 2C6000 used forklift

While all forklifts have a basic lifting capacity, that capacity is reduced by items like the forks, an attachment such as the sideshifter, and the load distance.

The operator should be familiar with the reduced lifting capacity of the forklift he is operating so that the machine is not overloaded and so used in an unsafe manor.

Many data tags also show how the capacity decreases at higher lifting heights and also shows the operator how high the forklift can lift.

Not abiding by the data tag can cause excess wear and tear on the forklift and can also cause the forklift to tip, chains to break, and forks to bend.

Thank you for reading and for operating your forklift safely! Please leave comments below for any other forklift tips.


Featured image courtesy of “Safety First Signpost Indicates Prevention Preparedness And Secu…” by Stuart Miles

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One Response to “Top 5 Forklift Operator Safety Tips”

  1. Art Merino November 23, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    You guys really nailed it with your list of the 5 issues regarding forklift safety. I can verify these are great tips.