How to Operate a Forklift

How to Operate a Forklift

Before operating a forklift there are some critical safety features the operator should be familiar with. A fully loaded forklift can weigh as much as a school bus even though the machine seems a lot smaller in size.

Whatever type of forklift you are about to operate, it is a good idea to take a walk around the machine and check for fluid leaks. Look on the floor for small puddles and check hydraulic lines for splits in the hose and leaks around the fittings. A line bursting during operation could cause serious injury to the operator, and fluid getting onto the tires will cause the vehicle to slip and slide out of control. Be sure to check the owner’s manual for all fluid reservoirs and their safe operating levels.

Give the roll cage a quick check for loose bolts and make sure the warning light is functioning properly. The roll cage could prevent serious injury should the forklift tip over and the warning light is useful to warn people in poorly lit areas about the forklifts operation.

The forks of the forklift should also be inspected for any cracks in the steel or bends in the length of the fork. Fork damage could be result in an accident while lifting a load. A bent fork could cause the vehicle to stop suddenly if it catches on the floor or when the forklift move in to pick up an object the fork may catch and tip over the load.

Once seated, fasten the seat belt securely around your waist. A forklift seatbelt will save you from being ejected and crushed if the machine tips over. Seatbelt use is also required by required by OSHA and your company will face a fine if you are not wearing the seatbelt during an inspection.

Power up the forklift and check the brake pedal for softness and move the lift to check, once again, the hydraulic lines for a possible leak. Slip the forklift into reverse, and without moving, listen for the alarm to sound that warns the forklift is backing up. Check the horn, as it is a critical part of a safe forklift

Report, and have repaired, any defects that represent a safety hazard.


Remember the wheels in the back of the forklift are used for turning. This may take a little while to get used to. The forklift can make a much tighter turn with rear wheel turning. Never drive forward with your forks raised. Lift them off the ground a few inches before proceeding. It is a good idea to find a wide-open place where you can familiarize yourself with the operation of your forklift.

Be aware of the lift capacity before you attempt to lift a load. Too much weight and the rear of the forklift will come off the ground setting yourself up for a safety issue. Do not drive in too fast when going to pick up a load. Your forks may strike something and tip the load over or cause a sudden stop of the forklift. Tilt the load back slightly and lift it off of the ground. You are ready to move with the load securely on the forks.

A good rule of thumb is, if the load’s height comes halfway up the mast drive in reverse. Anything under halfway and you should have a clear line of sight. Always use the horn when traveling around corners and backing up.

Remember, “Knowing safety is not enough, practice it.”

Leave a Comment