Safely Operate Forklifts

When operating forklifts, accidents can happen. Of course, this doesn’t mean life-threatening incidents cannot be prevented. Every work site will have standard safety programmes as well as specific safety procedures for every job done. And this includes operating forklifts.


  1. Check the overall condition of the forklifts. Taking just a few minutes to look over the equipment for defects or faults can prevent accidents on-site. Every forklift operator should run an examination, checking the basics such as no hydraulic/fluid leaks, tyres not damaged, controls operational, etc and note down repair issues and other relevant information before using the Forklift. From guidelines on vehicle traffic to rules in certain areas, operators should be considerate of the work environment. Hazards should be noted and avoided accordingly, from uneven grounds to areas with slippery surfaces.
  2. Read the manual operation procedure provided. Operators need to be careful about manoeuvring in sites with other forklift trucks. They should also make sure they have sufficient space to stop. Meanwhile, tipping could happen when the operator suddenly goes past the speed limit or makes a swift change in direction. Unless the forklift has a specific attachment for lifting a worker, (e.g. "man cage") never operate the forklift to lift a person - death or serious injury could result.
    • Operators must know the lifting capacity of the forklift and whether or not the attachments could exceed the required capacity. When operators load too much on the forklift, the rear tyres will affect the balance of the vehicle and tip it over. In addition, operators should never lift a load with one fork or move it unless both forks are fully loaded. And loads need to be stacked correctly and placed in both forks.
  3. Beware of the space you will be operating. When moving up ramps and positioning loads, operators should have clear visibility at all times. Some operators should also get a lookout worker to help if visibility is an issue. The operator should know how to seat himself in the forklift. He should also be certain that controls are within reach and mirrors are properly adjusted before starting the vehicle.
  4. Know what causes forklift accidents. One of the best ways to operate any machinery is to know what to avoid - that is, you must know what causes forklift accidents. In the Workplace, Forklift accidents can generally be grouped into 2 categories: Tip overs and Collisions.
    • Tip overs happen when the forklift tips over forward or backward, left or right. Forklift Tip Overs are always an extremely serious accident and can very easily cause serious injury or death to the operator and any persons nearby. The main leading causes of forklift tip-overs include: Lifting a load exceeding the forklift's lifting capacity, lifting a heavy load with excessive forward tilt, turning with raised forks with or without carrying a load, Turning hard too quickly with or without a load, Unevenly Stacked Loads, Side Shift not centered, and Operating on slopes or uneven ground. Tip Overs mainly cause death and serious injury to operators if they are not wearing their seatbelt and fall out, or try to jump out of the forklift, both methods can end up resulting in a serious/fatal crush injury under the forklift itself (which will weigh roughly twice as much as its lifting capacity - e.g. a forklift with a 2 ton lifting capacity will usually weigh around 4 tons.) Any persons nearby will also be at risk of serious injury or death via crush trauma.
    • Collisions happen when a forklift collides/strikes a person, machinery, wall, structure, etc. Incidents can range from minor such as bumps or side swipes into posts or guard rails, to major - such as striking a person, colliding into loaded pallet racks, etc....these can cause serious injury or death mainly to other persons but also to the operator (e.g. colliding into a loaded pallet rack structure that falls onto the forklift) The main leading causes of collisions include: Driving too fast, Not paying attention while driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving forward while carrying a load that obstructs vision, blind spots in the operating environment (e.g. doorways, large machinery), persons walking into the forklift operating area/ pedestrian exclusion zone. Collisions mainly cause death and serious injury to other persons through blunt force trauma, even at low speeds a forklift collision with a person can cause very serious injuries, broken bones, head trauma, etc. "Rear end swing" is also a leading cause of collisions, caused when the rear end of the forklift "swings" while turning - this can cause serious damage to both person and property.

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