5-Minute Safety Talk: Powered Industrial Trucks

Although an essential tool, the forklift is involved in many workplace injuries and accidents that cause property damage and machine downtime. These accidents are most often due to improper use.

Basic Forklift Operating Rules
Some basic safety rules include the following:

  • Do not allow anyone to stand or pass under the raised forks, whether loaded or empty.
  • Only stable or safely arranged loads can be handled.
  • Only loads that are within the truck’s rated capacity can be handled. When using an attachment to handle a load, keep the load within the attachment’s rated capacity.
  • When lifting a load, place the forks under the load as far as possible. Then, carefully tilt the mast backwards slightly to stabilize the load.
  • Never tilt the load forward unless depositing it.
  • There must be an overhead guard to protect the operator from the impact of falling loads. A backrest extension is needed when the load could fall rearward.
  • Only safety platforms may be used to lift people.
  • If the forklift needs to be in a hazardous location, it must be approved for the hazard.
A forklift balances a load with a counterweight at the back.
The front wheels act as a fulcrum or balance point.
The center of gravity moves upward when the forks are raised.

Travel Safety Rules
Most accidents happen while the truck is traveling. Safety rules when traveling include the following:

  • Watch where the forklift is going. Keep a clear view of the path of travel. Drive in reverse with the load trailing if the load obstructs your view. Keep the load close to the ground while driving. Raise the forks only as much as needed to clear the road surface. Tilt the load back slightly to stabilize it against the backrest.
  • Never drive up to anyone standing in front of a bench or fixed object.
  • Allow no riders, unless there is a safe place for them to ride.
  • Always keep arms and legs within the truck. Placing them between the uprights of the mast or outside the running lines of the truck is not allowed.
  • Keep to the right where there is two-way traffic.
  • Obey the speed limits. Slow down for wet and slippery floors. Slow down for turns. Keep the forklift under control so that it can be stopped safely.
  • Slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed.
  • Do not run over loose objects.
  • Maintain a safe distance of about three truck lengths from a truck traveling ahead.
  • Do not pass a truck that is traveling in your same direction at intersections, blind spots or other dangerous locations.
  • Allow sufficient clearance under overhead installations like lights, pipes, sprinklers and doorways.
  • Stay within the rated capacity of dockboards and bridgeplates. Make sure they are secure before driving on them.
  • Keep a safe distance from the edge of docks, ramps and platforms.