Forklift Safety Tips You Should Never Forget!

Forklifts are common in almost all industrial work environments. In fact, if there’s a forklift on site, most workers there are typically certified to operate it when the need arises. That should make the first rule of forklift safety obvious: If you aren’t trained and certified to use one, don’t!

Even those who are trained, however, can often benefit from a safety refresher. If it’s been awhile since you memorized the safety book, here a some quick safety tips to keep in mind any time you operate a forklift.

1. Perform a Pre-Operation Inspection

The first thing to consider before operating a forklift is the pre-trip inspection. This inspection involves taking a walk around the forklift to check for any problems, such as:

  • Are you wearing proper clothing (like steel toe boots, a hard hat, and a reflective/high-visibility jacket)?
  • Are your hands or boots slippery from grease or oil? You’ll want to clean them before operating.
  • What’s the general condition of the forklift? Double check the brakes, gauges, steering, mast, and forks for any notable signs of damage, and don’t operate it until any problems are fixed.

2. Make Adjustments for Starting

Before starting up the forklift, be sure the seat is in a comfortable position to operate for the duration of the task. This means that your feet and hands can easily reach the pedals, steering wheel, and controls. You should also adjust your mirrors to your own specifications. Make sure to lower the mast and forks close to the ground if the previous driver did not.

It’s important to not start the forklift until all this is done, and after you are comfortable and buckled in properly.

3. Be Careful of Your Surroundings

While you’re operating a forklift, always be mindful of your surroundings. For instance:

  • Be careful of your height, especially when entering or exiting a building.
  • Check around yourself before spinning, turning, or backing up.
  • Before the trip, you should have made your plans and work route to complete the job. Whether those plans change or not, make note of those around you and the jobs they’re working on. At any point it’s possible that someone could overlap into your space.

4. Take It Slow

Always take it slow when operating a forklift, especially when you have a load on the forks. Although you may be busy and want to rush to get the job done, that’s no reason to jeopardize safety in the workplace for yourself and others. Remember:

  • Do not lift or lower the forks and mast too quickly.
  • Don’t drive, turn, or reverse too quickly, especially around corners.

It’s important to operate the forklift as safely and efficiently as possible. If you are in an accident, any time you would have saved rushing will be lost anyway.

5. Secure Your Load

Once the load is on the forks, secure it before moving anywhere. This means the load is fully on the forks with an even weight distribution to avoid tipping or dumping. To further secure the load, lower the forks as close to the ground as possible and tilt the forks slightly backward.

Do not move or operate with an unstable load. You can either drop the load carefully and try again, or take further security measures like ropes, bungee cords, or stretch wrap for pallets. And always check your surroundings before, during, and after dropping the load at the new location.

6. Post-Operation Safety Steps

After you’ve finished operating the forklift, there are some post-operation steps to ensure safety. These include:

  • If the forklift needs fueling, it is courteous to take care of that before parking it away for the day. If it doesn’t need fuel, take the forklift to the designated parking spot, lower the forks all the way to the ground, and apply the parking brake.
  • Turn off the forklift and remove the key. Never leave an unattended forklift running!
  • Do another walk around the forklift to check the overall condition. This can catch any unnoticed damage sustained while you were working.

These safety tips may seem obvious to some, but to others, these tips could mean the difference between a workplace accident and an injury-free day. If you operate heavy equipment, it’s always a good idea to refresh your memory and keep workplace safety in mind.

Learn More

Observing good safety rules is just one way that you can help your workplace be more productive and efficient. To learn more about improving your work site, see these articles on the ergonomics of lift tables and truck lift gate safety.