How to stay safe while operating a forklift

How to stay safe while operating a forklift

The following precautions should be followed to help insure safety:

  1. Do not operate a forklift if you are under eighteen years of age.

It is against federal law for any person under the age of eighteen to operate a forklift. Those over eighteen must still be trained and properly certified per federal regulations.

  1. Inspect the forklift before use.

Check for and report any leaks, including hydraulic fluid leaks. Also check the fire extinguisher, horn, lights, backup alarm, and brakes to make sure they are all working properly.

  1. Always inspect the load before attempting to move it.

Look over the entire load, being careful to make sure there are no broken or damaged pallets. Sturdy pallets are required to avoid accidents and injuries from falling debris. Also be sure to secure any loose items.

  1. Wear protective gear.

Use the seatbelt that has been provided. You should also consider wearing a helmet and safety glasses for extra protection even if they are not a required at your place of employment.

  1. Use a spotter.

The most important time to use a spotter is when the forklift is traveling in reverse. The operator cannot possibly have a clear view of everything in every direction. A spotter can also be helpful when other obstacles obstruct view or cause distraction, such as when pallets or people are in the aisle.

  1. Keep the load low enough that it will not block your vision.

At the same time, the forks must not be so low that that will scrape the floor or obstacles near ground level.

  1. Do not operate a forklift while taking any medication that impairs response, perception, or causes drowsiness.

Cold, sinus, and allergy medicines, even over the counter preparations, can cause severe drowsiness. You should never operate heavy machinery or equipment when taking such medications. Pain relievers and other drugs including prescription medicines can impair reflexes and perception, which can be very dangerous. If in doubt as to how you will react to the medication, do not operate the forklift while taking it.

  1. Do not allow any person to walk underneath elevated forks, and do not allow any person to ride on any part of the forklift.

Serious injuries can result from forklift accidents, and failing to follow these precautions can cause you, as well as your employer, to be held liable.

  1. Carefully follow the capacity guidelines.

Do not overload the forklift, and do not tilt forward when load is elevated as doing so can cause the forklift to tip over.

  1. Do not smoke while operating a forklift.

Smoking can cause fire or explosion. It can also be a distraction. Operators should also refrain from eating, drinking, using headphones, talking on cell phones, or anything else that could be a distraction, while operating the forklift.


When the forklift is not in use, be sure to lower the forks, turn off the engine, and engage the parking brake. Never park the forklift where it will block entrances, exits, stairways or fire lanes. Even though the lift is no longer in use, safety is still a concern.

Report any and all accidents no matter how minor they may seem. Most companies keep reports of accidents even if not severe. Some are required to by their insurance carriers. Companies are also on the look out for ways to improve safety. Having accurate incident reports helps in this effort.

A forklift is a very convenient tool for moving things from one place to another. As with any other tool, you have to recognize the dangers, practice safety precautions, and use common sense when operating one.

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