The forklift material handling safety

The Forklift Material Handling Safety blog covers the hazards and prevention measures along with the Dos and don’ts of forklift safety according to OSHA standards. How to improve forklift safety as well as skill, safety responsibilities, training and safety instruction for forklift operators. We also discuss the cause of collisions, load drops, fires and explosions etc.

Forklifts are normally very busy in a company, being used as a means of transportation and material handling. Many pallets are moved here and there every day. You must pay attention to the advice or warnings to ensure the safety of your forklift trucks. And what is essential, is that of its workers. In this article, The Forklift Material Handling Safety rules to take into account to improve safety, for your interest we publish it.

Forklifts are machines dedicated to lifting shifting loads. Therefore, it could pose a danger if not worked properly. But what are some of the most serious risks to be aware of when using forklifts? Here are tips to detect and prevent them. The main risks that occur in the work of transporting goods with forklifts are:

  • Rollover
  • Collisions and entrapments
  • Truck overturning
  • Load drop
  • Fall of people
  • Truck fall from a height
  • Fires and explosions
  • Joint trauma
  • Intoxication and suffocation
The forklift material handling safety
The forklift material handling safety

Hazards and the forklift material handling safety

  • Driving at high speed
  • Driving the truck by unprepared operators
  • Driver or pedestrian distraction
  • Brake or steering failure
  • Reduced space for manoeuvres
  • Riding on slippery floors
  • Driving with loads that reduce visibility
  • Bad storage of materials
  • Glare
  • Lack of lighting
  • Lack of visibility when reversing


Normally it usually happens because an excess load or excess speed is transported in the turn, due to the presence of potholes or due to the poor condition and bursting of the tires.


  • Opt for a truck equipped with an anti-tip device, such as an Active Stability System.
  • Use the seat belt whenever recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Drive with the mast retracted and the forks 15 cm from the ground.
  • Reduce your speed, stay off curbs and get rid of sharp objects.
  • Check your tires before you start driving.
  • Never exceed the load limits of the truck. 

Equipment falls from height and/or possible overturning.

It can be caused by having travelled along the edge of loading docks, when entering or leaving a truck bed, or by driving on insufficiently resistant ground.


  • Do not circulate next to the edge of loading docks or ramps, protecting them and signalling them.
  • Immobilize the vehicle (with brakes and chocks).
  • Check the resistance of the ground before passing with the truck.

Fire and/or explosion

A fire can cause extremely serious burns and injuries. It could be produced by the use of a conventional truck in an ATEX area, by the use of a motorized truck in a highly flammable area, by charging the battery in an area with a source of ignition or by overloading elements of electric battery charging installation.

The forklift material handling safety
The forklift material handling safety

The causes of fires and explosions

  • Use of conventional forklifts in areas with atmospheres of gases, flammables, etc.
  • Use of heat engine (diesel) trucks in areas of flammable or combustible materials.
  • Leaking fuel, flammable gases or vapours
  • Charge electric batteries in areas with sources of ignition


  • It is advisable to equip trucks with an internal combustion engine with a spark arresting device at the outlet of the exhaust pipe.
  • Carry out adequate preventive maintenance, a daily and periodic review of circuits, tanks, fuel coupling, batteries, etc.
  • Check that the battery charging area is free of sources of ignition and well-ventilated.

Shock, entrapment, run over, fall of transported or stacked elements

There are several possible causes of one of these risks, if you are driving at a high speed, there is a distraction, the brakes or the steering fail, with the load falling from the transported elements, due to lack of visibility or lack of training of the driver. forklift operator among others.

The causes of the load drop 

  • Poor stacking of loads on the forks
  • Driving with an excessively high load
  • Riding at walking speed on bumpy, uneven surfaces, etc.
  • Lowering the load in the direction of travel


  • Operator training.
  • Emergency stop devices.
  • Reverse warning system.
  • Drive with caution: pass over railway tracks diagonally and at low speed. Slow down at intersections.
  • Always place the loads on the fork in such a way that they can’t fall.
  • It is recommended that the truck be equipped with a Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS).
  • Ensure good visibility.
  • Separate the area of ​​passage of forklifts and pedestrians.
  • Eliminate potholes and check that the ground is resistant.
  • Chock the wheels if the truck is on a slope.
  • The rules of the highway code must always be respected.
  • Consult the characteristics table of the truck or implement you use before transporting and lifting a load.

Intoxication and/or suffocation

A worker could be poisoned/asphyxiated in the case of carrying out work with forklifts inside truck boxes or in closed places without sufficient ventilation, and in the presence of gases or steam.


  • Work inadequately ventilated rooms.
  • Check the absence of toxic gases or vapours and check the oxygen content of the atmosphere. It will only work if the level is between 19.5% and 21% of oxygen in the atmosphere.
  • Avoid contact with clothing impregnated with dangerous products.
  • Always consult the safety data sheets.

Electrical contact

Working in the proximity of overhead power lines or with conducting cables, distribution boxes or connections, could bring you consequences such as electrocution, burns, falls or blows as a result of a discharge.

The forklift material handling safety
The forklift material handling safety


  • Carry out periodic inspections.
  • Check the condition of cables and plugs.
  • In the event of a breakdown in electric forklifts, they must be disconnected from the voltage and contact the after-sales service as soon as possible.
  • Do not use wheelbarrows if you are wearing wet clothes.


The noise produced by the equipment itself or work personnel could cause hearing loss, hearing damage or professional deafness.


  • Isolate noise sources.
  • Use trucks with cabins with sound insulation.
  • Conduct team training.
  • Carrying out inspections and generally monitoring the health of workers.
  • Use an ear plug or muff

Vibrations and joint trauma

Using the forklift for a long time can lead to joint wear due to vibrations and the postures adopted.


  • Opting for a seat with suspension, anatomical and adjustable should be paramount.
  • Walk on smooth surfaces
  • Control the health of the operators to avoid Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) and use protective equipment such as gloves or safety shoes.
  • Adapt the speed to the type of soil.
  • Use of tires with solid wheels and anatomical steering wheel.

Do’s and don’ts of forklift safety

You should be aware of the importance of prevention to avoid any risk by using forklifts correctly, performing the necessary preventive maintenance and ensuring the training of operators, possible incidents can be avoided.
The forklift material handling safety
The forklift material handling safety
  • Never drive faster than 10 km / h in closed places and 20 km in open places.
  • Firstly, the train operators in the use of the truck.
  • Secondly, drive with concentration.
  • Thirdly, check daily and periodically the condition of the brakes and steering.
  • In addition, provide enough space for forklift traffic and manoeuvring.
  • Moreover, moderate speed in areas with wet or slippery floors.
  • Certainly, always try to have good visibility of the way forward.
  • Further, store materials properly and mark the area.
  • And, illuminate corridors and interior areas.
  • Above all, periodically check the truck and warehouse lighting.
  • Most importantly, reduce speed when turning or cornering.
  • Moreover, the ride with the forks raised 15 cm off the ground and tilted back.
  • Check the condition and pressure of the tires daily and change them when the tread is poor likewise.
  • Further, drive on suitable ramps.
  • And, the floor must be uniform.
  • Certainly, the forklift operator must always wear a seat belt.
  • Certainly, place the load on the forks properly.
  • Use the necessary systems on the forks.
  • Ride with the forks raised 15 cm off the ground and tilted back.
  • Ride on level ground, and if this is not possible, ride at a reduced speed.
  • When you have to go down a slope with a load, do it in reverse, with the load raised in such a way that it does not rub against the ground and at low speed likewise.
  • Further, train the operator on how to get on and off the truck properly.
  • In addition, place a non-slip bracket on the chassis and a handle on the frame of the truck gantry.
  • Moreover, prohibits the transport of people in single-seat forklifts.
  • And, prohibit the use of trucks to lift people.

Forklift operator safety responsibilities

A daily inspection between each work shift, of the equipment before putting it into use. An inspection checklist must be kept for each piece of equipment (forklifts) in the workplace. A forklift is considered abandoned if the operator moves more than 25 feet from the equipment or has no visibility of the equipment.

The driver’s role in handling forklifts is essential for his safety and that of those around him. For this reason, it will be the person prepared and specifically designed for it. That is to say, the driver is responsible for the various situations that may be generated or caused by his incorrect actions (unsafe acts and conditions).

  • Liquid levels, such as fuel, oils, battery water, coolant, etc.
  • Tires, steering, brakes, emergency brake.
  • Mast, lifting trolley, forks.
  • Horn, lights.
  • Levers for operating controls.

In addition, other essential parts of the equipment should be periodically inspected by a qualified person. The frequency of the inspection will be determined by the use of the forklift. Consequently, any forklift that does not pass daily or periodic inspections must be removed from service until it has been repaired.

When refuelling or charging the forklift, the operator must:

  • Certainly, stop the engine.
  • Firstly, determine if personal protective equipment is necessary.
  • Secondly, check if the equipment needs water or if the battery needs acid.
  • Thirdly, post signage “NO SMOKING”.
  • Safety instructions for forklift operators?

It is necessary to follow the safety rules to avoid accidents in the workplace. When lifting the load, the employee must:

  • Certainly, know the approximate weight of the load to avoid overloading the equipment.
  • Firstly, position the forklift in front of the load.
  • Secondly, insert the forks completely into the pallet.
  • Thirdly, gently lift the load approximately 2-4 inches above ground level.
  • Further, tilt the mast towards the operator’s cab.
  • And, check that the load is balanced; if it is not, it must be secured or tied.
  • Respect the signs for the pedestrian crossing (traffic lights).
  • Maintain a safe distance from platforms and the edges of the ramps.
  • Pay attention to other vehicles in the work area.
  • Do not use forklifts to transport or elevate people.
  • Inspect fire extinguishers.
  • Check valid inspection sticker.

Skills for forklift operator

  • Good vision and hearing.
  • Do not suffer from hernias (any deficiency that causes loss of consciousness or disorders in balance).
  • Visual field, colours and reflections (react quickly to the aggression of a visual, auditory or movement type).
  • Knowledge of all the controls and functions of the forklift. General knowledge of mechanics.

How to improve forklift safety

When moving the load, the employee must:

  • Give way to pedestrians.
  • Drive the forklift in reverse if you have no visibility.
  • Avoid putting your hands, feet, or head out of the sides of the forklift.
  • Honk your horn in low-visibility areas and intersections.
  • Turn on the lights if you enter a dark area.
  • On ramps, reverse down and climb straight up with assistance.
  • Respect the speed limits.

When disposing of the load, the operator must:

  • Certainly, observe the height of the area where you will place the load.
  • Make sure that the equipment supports the weight of the load.
  • Observe the stability of the load when depositing it.

When leaving the forklift, the operator must:

  • Lower the forks.
  • Put the controls in neutral and turn off the engine.
  • Set the emergency brake.
  • In some places, take your forklift keys with you.

Forklift operator training requirements

The employer must ensure that the operator of the equipment is competent and demonstrate that it has completed training and an evaluation as established in the standard. Employees in training may operate the equipment under these conditions:

  • The person offering the training must have the knowledge, skill, and experience to train and evaluate operators.
  • Only trained workers and Certificates must operate a forklift.
  • Make sure operators are trained in the types of forklifts they drive.

Forklift training content:

  • Handling Instructions, Warnings and Cautions.
  • Forklift controls and instrumentation (where it is, what it does, how it works).
  • Engine operation.
  • Direction and handling.
  • Visibility (including restrictions for loading).
  • Adapted forks and attachments, operating and use limitations.
  • Any inspection and maintenance that the operator has to perform.
  • Fuel filling or battery recharging.
  • Operation limitations.

Forklift Maintenance

  • Forklifts found in good condition and unsafe must be taken out of service.
  • Keep forklifts clean; free from excess oil and fat.
  • Do repairs and maintenance services according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.


Forklifts are motorized equipment used to move, lift and place materials within the work area. This equipment can be dangerous if not used following safety rules. Forklifts must be operated by authorized persons who are qualified and trained in their use. Forklift handling operations must be supervised by a competent person. The employer must provide PPE such as safety shoes, helmets, and safety glasses to the operator. Job Safety Analysis – JSA or risk assessment, permit to work system must be followed by an employer for safe work practice.

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One response to “The forklift material handling safety”

  1. Elina Brooks Avatar

    I appreciate that you mentioned how forklifts are machines used for lifting shifting loads, which is why it is important to apply preventative measures to ensure they don’t cause serious risks. I need a forklift for my warehouse soon, so I’m currently looking for ones for sale. I’ll make sure to remember what you said while I shop for electric forklifts for sale soon.

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