Forklift Safety Tips

Creating a Safe Work Environment

Be sure that you are taking the following specific reasonable precautions to protect workers who are working in the area of forklifts and lifting devices:Establishing pedestrian traffic policies and programs

Conducting a comprehensive workplace assessment of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and sssessing offsite working environments for risks such as the potential for contacting power lines and the condition of work surfaces. In making such assessments, employers, contractors and constructors should consider safeguards such as:

  • Protective barriers, walkways or sidewalks to channel pedestrian movement
  • Competent signalers
  • Securing and immobilizing unattended vehicles against accidental movement
  • Warning lights, signs and audible vehicular devices
  • Policies to restrict or separate pedestrian and/or vehicular movement in high travel routes
  • Signage such as surface markings to delineate either pedestrian or vehicle use
  • Speed limits for vehicles
  • Driver and pedestrian visibility
  • Awareness training for drivers, pedestrians and other on-property workers
  • Personal signalling devices (e.g., pedestrian hand-held horns), and
  • Adequate space allowances for safe turning and/or back-up, etc.

Forklift Inspection and Visual Checklist

Although forklifts are designed to perform rugged tasks, each time they are used they can get damaged in myriad of ways. That’s why inspections are so important. At the start of each shift, perform both a visual inspection of the general condition and cleanliness of the lift truck, as well as an operational check to test its functioning properly. If you notice anything that may affect the normal operation of the forklift, immediately alert your supervisor.


Checklist for Visual Inspection

  • floor–clear of objects that could cause an accident
  • no obstructions overhead
  • note any nearby objects to avoid as you drive away
  • fire extinguishers present and charged
  • fluid levels such as engine, oil fuel and radiator water
  • battery fully charged and securely in place
  • cables for exposed wires
  • battery plug connections not loose, worn or dirty
  • vent caps not plugged/clogged
  • electrolyte levels in cells
  • hold downs or brackets
  • bolts, nuts, guards, chains or hydraulic hose reels not damaged, missing or loose
  • wheels and tires not worn or damaged
  • air pressure of pneumatic tires
  • forks not bent or cracked
  • positioning latches in good working condition
  • carriage teeth not broken, chipped or worn
  • chain anchor pins not worn, loose or bent
  • no damp spots or drips that may indicate a leak
  • hoses held securely, not loose, crimped, worn or rubbing


Checklist for Pre-Operation Inspection

  • horn working and loud enough to be heard in working environment; other warning devices operational
  • floor brake: pedal holds, until stops smoothly
  • parking break: holds against slight acceleration
  • deadman seat brake: holds when operator rises from their seat
  • cluth and gearshift: shifts smoothly with no jumping or jerking
  • dash control panel: all lights and gauges operational
  • steering: moves smoothly
  • lift mechanism: operates smoothly (check by raising forks to maximum height then lowering completely)
  • tilt mechanism: moves smoothly, holds (check by tilting mast all the way forward and backward)
  • cylinders and hoses: not leaking after above checks
  • no unusual sounds
  • permit only qualified people to service and maintain forklift trucks


Safely Operating a Forklift

No one must ride or operate a forklift truck except for a properly trained operator who is able to maintain control of the forklift and operate it smoothly when stopping, starting, lifting and tilting. The following points list some important guidelines on forklift safety.

Keep your hands, arms, head, feet and legs inside the forklift truck at all times. Travel with forks as low as possible from the floor and tilted back. Obey posted traffic signs. Decrease speed at all corners, sound horn and watch the swing of both the rear of the lift truck and the load. Avoid quick stops. If the load blocks your vision, travel slowly in reverse. Always look in the direction of travel. Keep an eye out for oil spots, wet spots, loose objects, holes, rough surfaces, people and vehicles on the floor or roadway.
To ensure the safety of others, know the blind spots of the lift truck with and without a load. When anyone crosses the route being travelled, stop the forklift truck. Lower the load to the floor, and wait until passage is clear.

Travelling on an Incline
Keep the forks pointed downhill without a load, and pointed uphill with a load. Do not attempt to turn the lift truck until it’s on level ground.
Support the load by the front wheels and turn with the rear wheels. Do not turn the steering wheel sharply when travelling quickly. If the lift truck is overloaded, steering will be difficult. Do not exceed load limits, and do not add a counterweight as an attempt to improve steering.

It’s important to know the recommended load limit of the forklift (shown on the data plate) and the capacity of the fork, and to never exceed these limits. Position the load according to the recommended load center. Do not add extra weight to counterbalance an overload. Keep the load close to the front wheels to keep the lift truck stable. When inserting the fork, keep the mast of the forklift in an upright position before inserting the fork into a pallet. Level the fork before inserting it.

Raising the Load
Do not raise or lower the fork unless the lift truck is stopped and braked. Avoid lifting a load that extends above the load backrest if there’s any risk of the load, or part of it, sliding back toward the operator. Check for adequate overhead clearance before raising a load, and maintain a safe working distance from overhead power lines. Lift the load straight up, then tilt back slightly. Watch that the load doesn’t catch on adjacent loads or obstructions. Don’t back up until the forks are free.

When a load is raised, the lift truck is less stable. The operator must stay on the forklift when the load is in a raised position. Don’t allow anyone to stand or walk under the elevated part of the forklift, whether it’s loaded or unloaded.

Handling Pallets
Ensure that forks are level and high enough to go into the pallet, and that they go all the way under the load. Forks must be the proper width to provide even weight distribution.
Avoid trying to move or adjust any part of the load, the forklift or the surroundings when on the forklift. Do not use pallets elevated by forklifts as an improvised working platform.

Park only in an approved location. When leaving the lift truck unattended, secure it by setting the brakes, lowering the forks or load to the floor, neutralizing the controls, and turning off the motor switch. Disconnect the battery or go through propane shut-down procedures.

Lifting Device Inspection and Maintenance

  • Maintain lifting equipment in good condition to prevent mechanical or operational failures. Employers should review preventive maintenance and inspection reports and follow manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedules and practices.
  • Examine lifting devices to determine their load capacity. Employers should have these examinations conducted before using a lifting device for the first time.
  • Ensure a lifting device is constructed and equipped with suitable fittings and maintained to ensure the safety of all workers. Employees should know about the maintenance and suitability of the equipment in the workplace.

Inspector Expectations at Your Facility

  • Inspectors will check to ensure workers have the training, knowledge and experience to operate specific lifting devices and that forklift trainees are accompanied by a trained individual. They will also check that supervisors are competent to oversee workers’ operation of these lifting devices.
  • Inspectors will review training records and question workers and their supervisors on their knowledge of the equipment being used in the workplace, procedures for working in the vicinity of lifting devices, and potential hazards.
  • Employers are responsible for keeping workers up-to-date on required training for operating lifting devices. It is recommended that operator training be part of a larger comprehensive lifting device safety program, developed in consultation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee or the health and safety representative that includes the following elements:
    • Hazard identification
    • Training (both of operators and those working near a lifting device)
    • Supervision
    • Operating procedures
    • Maintenance and repair procedures
    • Facility design
    • Lift truck/device selection

Compliance Information

Workplaces in the industrial sector are subject to regulation by provincial, municipal and federal governments. Industrial workplaces have come to rely on forklift trucks for their ability to lift and transport just about any load around the facility. Forklifts are indispensable, but also dangerous. Often when employees grow accustomed to using forklifts they tend to stop thinking of them as a safety hazard, and forget or neglect to follow some important operating and maintenance procedures. They become compliant.

When forklift injuries occur, they’re usually serious given the tremendous weight of these powerful machines. Employees must be trained to work safely with forklifts, not just when they’re hired but periodically thereafter. Refresher training for the experienced operator is just as important as first-time training for new employees. It’s also a good idea for employees to receive basic first aid training in case of injuries.