Essential Forklift Safety Tips Every Operator Should Know

Date: June 27, 2024

Carrie Kolodji, Sr. Risk Control Analyst

Move Heavy Loads Quickly and Efficiently 

Forklifts are useful tools to move heavy loads quickly and efficiently. However, if incorrectly operated, they can be dangerous. To prevent incidents, use these essential forklift safety tips.


Pre-operation inspections help identify potential hazards or defects that could lead to incidents. Inspect the forklift for any damage or malfunctions. Verify that the brakes, steering, and controls are functioning correctly. Additionally, always check the truck and trailer wheels properly before entering. This is crucial because if a truck or trailer begins to roll while you are inside with a forklift, it can lead to a serious incident.

Proper Training and Certification

It is against federal law for anyone under 18 years old to operate a forklift, as well as for anyone over 18 who is untrained and certified. Proper training ensures that operators know how to manage the equipment, know potential risks, and understand how to prevent other dangers.

Understanding Load Capacity and Stability

Knowing the weight capacity of your forklift is crucial. The load should never exceed the maximum load capacity, including both weight and size limits.

To ensure stability, keep the load stable and low to the ground. When traveling with a load, tilt the mast back slightly and do not overload it. Always check the manufacturer's instruction manual for specific capacity guidelines.

Safe Driving Practices

Buckle Up: Using a seatbelt can save lives.

No Riders Allowed: Forklifts are intended for use by a single operator. Never allow passengers to ride on the forklift unless it is specifically designed for that purpose.

Watch Your Speed: Operate equipment at a safe speed, especially when turning, stopping, or operating on uneven surfaces.

Do Not Raise or Lower Loads While Traveling: Only raise or lower loads when stationary. Shifting weight can lead to losing control or a falling load from the forklift arms.

Stay Clear of Hazards: Avoid operating near edges, ramps, or other hazards. Keep an eye out for overhead obstructions like low-hanging pipes or door frames.

Park Safely: When finished operating, park the forklift in the designated area. Lower the forks to flat ground, set the controls to neutral, engage the parking brake, turn off the engine, and remove the key.

Communication and Signaling

Horns and signals serve as essential communication tools that help alert nearby workers and other equipment operators to the presence and movements of the forklift, thereby reducing the risk of accidents and collisions. When operating a forklift:

  • Make eye contact with the people around you.
  • Take caution at intersections and blind spots.
  • Before turning down a blind corner, slow down, look around, and honk the horn.

Each year, forklift incidents result in death, life-altering injuries, and damage to products and property. With proper training and operation, operators can feel confident getting the job done safely and efficiently. For more jobsite safety tips, contact your local Risk Control Consultant. Click the button below to find an agent near you.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.


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