Basic Safety Rules for Forklift

Basic Safety Rules for Forklift
Published On:April 30, 2021 Revised On:December 27, 2023

Forklifts are essential for warehouse productivity, but they pose serious risks.  The dangers of forklift operations include accidents, injuries, and fatalities. This guide outlines essential safety rules to mitigate these risks. Safety is non-negotiable in forklift operations; it’s about knowledge and commitment to best practices.

Safety Rules for Forklift

Before operating a forklift, performing a thorough pre-operational inspection is essential. This inspection helps ensure the forklift is properly working and reduces the risk of accidents. Here’s a guide on what to inspect and how to do it effectively:

  • Exterior Inspection: Begin by inspecting the forklift’s exterior. Look for visible damage, such as dents, cracks, or loose parts. Pay special attention to the tires, checking for proper inflation and any signs of damage or wear. Damaged tires can affect stability and handling.
  • Forks and Attachments: Carefully examine the forks for any signs of damage, including cracks or bends. Ensure that they are properly attached and securely in place. If the forklift has attachments, like side shifters or clamps, check them for proper function and secure mounting.
  • Fluid Levels: Check various fluid levels in the forklift, including engine oil, hydraulic fluid, coolant, and brake fluid. Top up any low fluids, and look for signs of leaks in the engine or hydraulic systems.
  • Battery (If Electric): If the forklift is electric, ensure the battery is fully charged and securely connected. Check for any corrosion on the battery terminals affecting electrical performance.
  • Controls and Gauges: Test all controls, including the steering wheel, brakes, accelerator, and lift controls, to ensure they respond correctly. Additionally, verify that all gauges and indicators, such as the fuel and temperature gauges, function correctly.
  • Safety Features: Test the forklift’s safety features, including lights, horns, backup alarms, and the seatbelt. These features are essential for safe operation and must be in good working order.
  • Operator Compartment: Inspect the operator’s compartment. Ensure that the operator’s seat is in good condition and securely fastened. Adjust the mirrors for proper visibility and ensure the operator’s controls are clean and debris-free.
  • Load Backrest: Verify that the load backrest is in place and undamaged. It helps prevent loads from falling backwards, enhancing safety during operation.
  • Emergency Equipment: Check the availability and condition of emergency equipment within the forklift, such as fire extinguishers and first-aid kits. These items can be critical in case of emergencies.

Creating Pedestrian-Free Zones

These zones are areas where pedestrians are prohibited, significantly reducing the risk of accidents and ensuring the safety of all nearby individuals. The importance of establishing these zones must be balanced, as the interaction between pedestrians and forklifts can cause accidents.

By strictly adhering to these guidelines and maintaining a collective commitment to pedestrian safety, workplaces can significantly reduce the risk of accidents involving forklifts and pedestrians, ensuring a safer and more productive environment for all. Some key considerations include:

  1. Clear Markings: Mark pedestrian-free zones with signs, floor markings, and barriers. Ensure that everyone in the workplace is aware of these designated areas.
  2. Separation Barriers: Physically separate pedestrian pathways from forklift routes using barriers like guardrails, bollards, or fences.
  3. Designated Walkways: Provide pedestrians with well-defined pathways, keeping them from forklift traffic. These pathways should be easily accessible and marked.
  4. Traffic Control: Implement traffic control measures, such as one-way traffic lanes, to minimise the chances of forklifts and pedestrians crossing paths.
  5. Training: Train all employees, both forklift operators and pedestrians, on respecting pedestrian-free zones and safe practices when working near forklifts.
  6. Alert Systems:  When a forklift or a powered vehicle is equipped with proximity alert systems, both operators will receive an audible and visual alert when they are close. The safety system also provides truck-to-truck collision avoidance, and it helps reduce accidents in the workplace.

Guidelines for Interacting Safely

Both forklift operators and pedestrians must understand and follow specific guidelines to ensure safety in shared workplace areas. Always sound the horn and use lights (if equipped) when approaching intersections, blind corners, or pedestrian crossings to alert pedestrians.

Adhere to posted speed limits and slow down in areas where pedestrians may be present. Keep a clear line of sight and use mirrors to check for pedestrians before moving. Be especially cautious when reversing. Always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Wait for them to clear the path before proceeding. Establish clear communication with pedestrians and use hand signals or verbal cues to indicate intentions.

Proper Handling of Different Types of Loads

Handling loads efficiently and safely is a core aspect of forklift operation. Proper load handling not only ensures the safety of the operator and those nearby but also helps maintain the integrity of the cargo. Here’s how to handle different types of loads effectively:

When handling palletised loads, approach them squarely, aligning the forks with the pallet openings. Insert the forks fully under the pallet and ensure they are evenly spaced. Tilt the mast slightly back for stability before lifting the load.

Use attachments like fork extensions or carpet poles for long or unstable loads. Ensure the load is balanced and centred on the forks to prevent tipping. Adjust the forks or attachments to support the load’s entire surface area when dealing with irregularly shaped loads. Avoid overhanging loads on one side, as it can cause imbalance. If double stacking loads, be cautious about the combined weight and height. Ensure that the bottom load is stable and evenly distributed to prevent toppling.

Load Capacity and Load Center

Every forklift has a specified load capacity, indicating its maximum weight to lift and carry safely. Exceeding this capacity can lead to tipping or damage to the forklift. Always check the load capacity rating and never exceed it.

The load centre is the horizontal distance from the forks’ vertical face to the load’s centre of gravity. Most forklifts are designed for a specific load centre, typically 24 inches. When handling loads with different load centres, calculate the new capacity and adjust the approach accordingly. A longer load centre reduces the forklift’s lifting capacity.

Forklift Stability and Dangers of Tipping

Maintaining forklift stability is crucial to prevent accidents, particularly tip-overs. Forklifts have a high centre of gravity due to their counterweight at the rear. Here’s how to ensure stability and mitigate the dangers of tipping:

  • Centre of Gravity: Understand that the centre of gravity shifts as the load is raised or lowered. To maintain stability, keep the load as close to the ground as possible during travel and raise it to the desired height only when needed.
  • Tilting: Tilt the mast slightly backward (backward tilt) to improve stability when lifting or lowering a load. Avoid excessive forward tilting, which can cause the forklift to tip forward.
  • Uneven Terrain: Exercise caution when operating on uneven surfaces. Slow down and approach slopes or ramps with the load pointed uphill. When descending slopes, keep the load and forks uphill to prevent tipping.
  • Speed: Avoid sharp turns and sudden stops, destabilising the forklift. Operate at a safe and controlled speed, especially when carrying heavy or high loads.
  • Load Placement: Ensure that loads are evenly distributed on the forks. Keep the load low and stable while driving, and do not carry it too high, which can compromise stability.
  • Dangers of Overloading: Stay within the forklift’s rated capacity. Overloading is a leading cause of tipping accidents.


By strictly adhering to these guidelines and maintaining a collective commitment to pedestrian safety, workplaces can significantly reduce the risk of accidents involving forklifts and pedestrians, ensuring a safer and more productive environment for all.

Stream Peak specialises in supplying cutting-edge forklift fleet management systems and forklift safety systems engineered to prevent workplace accidents and enhance safety. Connect with us today to schedule a no-obligation demonstration and consultation and discover how we can elevate your workplace safety standards.