Prevent Forklift Accidents

Accidents involving forklifts may be grouped into the six basic categories described below. With the proper training and instruction, nearly all of these types of forklift accidents could be avoided.


  1. Look to the organizational factors first. Nearly all such factors are the fault of, or at least under the ultimate control of, the employer. Such factors may include the lack of proper equipment, pressure to perform to unrealistic timelines, improper assignment of operators to forklifts and insufficient training of operators. Prepare a document that addresses each of these factors alongside suggested solutions for implementing quickly.
  2. Assess the behavioral and operational factors involved in forklift use on your premises. Many of these are under the direct control of the employee, the forklift operator. Some of these, such as traveling at excessive speed, riding or giving a ride on a forklift, stunt driving or jerky, erratic driving, can be chalked up to poor judgement. Many others, like riding with an elevated load, parking incorrectly, improper backing up technique, etc., can be corrected with proper forklift training.
  3. Evaluate your workplace design. The design and layout are attributable mainly to management. Things like narrow, cluttered or crowded aisles, poor condition of the loading dock, obstructions at doors or intersections, poor lighting, etc. Each of these should addressed with proper planning, training and layout plans on floors.
  4. Determine the load characteristics. This is another training issue. A properly trained operator would know how to correctly stack or place objects on the pallet, make sure the load is not too heavy and to make sure the load is stable and not going to block his vision.
  5. Check all mechanical factors . These are mostly equipment malfunctions: brakes steering, clutch, linkage, mast assembly or transmission. Emissions, blind spots or obstructions that block the operator’s view, inadequate or malfunctioning safety devices. While maintaining equipment in proper is the responsibility of the employer, a properly trained operator will recognize when mechanical factors are sub-optimum and will refuse to work until they are corrected.
  6. Plan to avoid accidents involving pedestrians. These accidents may be avoided by separating pedestrian traffic from vehicle traffic by way of designated travel ways or walkways. Again, training staff on how to communicate with one another, what high-visibility gear to wear, etc., would go a long way to preventing pedestrian accidents.


  • Common sense is always a smart policy, and that means following obvious safety rules. Keep your work area well lit. Many accidents are the result of poor lighting. Another way to avoid accidents is to clean up spills and other substances on the floor. Assuming that somebody else will do it often leads to slips and skids. Operator fatigue is a major factor in forklift accidents. Taking a quick break and stepping aside (after properly parking and securing your forklift, of course) can increase alertness and help prevent many preventable hazards. Check your company’s work policy. Especially during heavy overtime, forklift operators and drivers are required to take a break after so many hours worked.

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