Top 10 Forklift Operator Safety Tips

When operating a forklift, safety should be a top priority. Most workplace accidents can be avoided with proper training and safety procedures. When forklift operator safety rules are observed, it leads to a safer work environment for everyone. Here are our top 10 forklift operator safety tips:

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #1: ALWAYS use the Operator Daily Checklist.

The operator daily checklist is performed by the forklift operator prior to using the forklift. Completion of the checklist before each shift is required by OSHA and ensures that all components of the forklift are in safe, working condition before use. The comprehensive checklist can include 20+ items, such as checking for water, oil or radiator leaks; examining tires; testing brakes, lights, horn, and steering wheel; and checking for any cracks or damage on the forks, mast, and overhead guard.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #2: Do NOT use the truck if in need of repairs.

If any items did not pass the operator daily checklist mentioned in Tip #1, do not use the forklift. Identify the problem and take the necessary steps to repair the equipment as quickly as possible. In a busy work environment, it can be tempting to overlook or delay repairs; however, doing this not only puts your workers at risk, it also can cause further, costlier damage to the forklift

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #3: ALWAYS use the Designated Operating Position.

Before operating the forklift, ensure that you are in the appropriate operating position for that specific model (stand-up, sit-down, etc.) Also, check that all controls are within easy reach and adjust your seat, mirrors, and steering wheel accordingly.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #4: Always keep a clear view of the path of travel and look in the direction of travel.

When driving a forklift, maintaining visibility of your path of travel should be a top priority. By looking ahead in the direction you are traveling, unexpected obstructions and accidents can be avoided. In some cases, ensuring a clear path of travel may mean traveling in reverse. Additionally, operators should be aware of where loads are placed and if the loads are blocking their view. If at any time the path of travel is obstructed, stop the forklift until visibility is unobstructed.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #5: Observe ALL safety rules.

While there are several rules for forklift safety, sometimes companies have their own set of safety guidelines employees must follow. It is important to adhere to all work-site rules and regulations. In addition to the operator safety rules, forklift drivers must always take extra precautions for the people around them. This includes watching out for pedestrians and not allowing anyone to walk under raised forks.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #6: NEVER drive up to anyone standing in front of a fixed object.

As mentioned in Tip #5, forklift operators must always take extra precautions for the people around them. This includes never approaching a person standing in front of a fixed object, such as a wall, storage structure, bench, or machine. If the forklift happened to jump forward, the brakes failed, or a wrong lever was pushed, the person could be pinned between the forklift and the stationary object.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #7: Sound the horn at ALL cross-aisles and whenever vision is obstructed.

Forklift horns are a vital feature for the safety of any workplace or warehouse. Pedestrian and forklift paths can cross often, making it crucial that operators sound their horn to indicate that there is an oncoming forklift. The most common areas this will happen are at cross-aisles or corners, but you should also sound your horn any time vision is obstructed.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #8: Keep a safe distance from edges of ramps, docks, and platforms.

Operating a forklift on ramps, docks, and platforms is necessary but can present hazardous situations. While OSHA does not specify a specific distance that must be kept, operators must use sound judgment to ensure they do not come too close to an edge. OSHA also has several requirements when traveling on inclines, such as never driving with the load downgrade and never turning on a grade.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #9: No passengers allowed on forklift trucks.

Forklifts are for moving loads, and loads only. Other than the operator, there should never be additional passengers or riders sitting or standing on any part of the forklift. Forklifts are not meant to carry or lift other people and doing so could result in injuries.

Forklift Operator Safety Tip #10: Absolutely NO stunt driving or horseplay is permitted.

Forklifts are very different than a car—they weigh more, making them harder to stop; they have a much smaller turning radius; and they are much easier to tip over. Even if operators feel confident that performing a stunt won’t be dangerous, it is never safe to do so. It can lead to the forklift overturning, hitting other objects and people, and potentially injuring the operator or pedestrians. 

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