Fork Lift Truck Safety

Forklift trucks are a vital component of many businesses but they account for a large number of accidents each year. These are mainly due to the following reasons:

  • Operator error often due to lack of training
  • Improper forklift truck maintenance and faulty equipment
  • Unsuitable premises

Forklift Truck Training

Proper forklift training is one of the most important aspects of forklift truck safety. It should always be carried out by a qualified instructor (one who is accredited) and should always follow a set procedure.

Firstly, the forklift training should comprise the basic skills and knowledge as to the mechanics of operating a forklift truck safely with the trainee being taught what each of the levers and switches do as well as learning how to manoeuvre it. This should be done in a clear open space and can take several days before moving on to more specific training in relation to the actual job. This is where the trainee should learn how to manoeuvre the forklift in the area in which he/she will actually be operating it. This should always be done under the close supervision of the trainer.

Only when the trainer is satisfied that the person can operate the forklift competently can the driver be left to work unsupervised. That said, regular checks should be made on all forklift truck drivers to ensure that they continue to operate the lift trucks competently and safely. Refresher training courses can be given and it might also be necessary to introduce further training if certain procedures or layouts of a building change.

Authorised Lift Truck Drivers Only

You should never assume that a person who is about to operate a lift truck is qualified to do so. If authorisation falls under your job remit, always ensure that any keys to the lift trucks are removed and handed in to be kept in a secure place once the lift truck is not in use to prevent unauthorised operation. All personnel who need to operate the fork lift trucks should provide you with written authorisation of their completion of forklift training to ensure safety. It goes without saying that anyone whom you suspect may be unfit to operate a lift truck due to being under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs or even due to illness should be prevented from doing so.

Layout and Loads

Wherever a forklift truck is going to be operated, make sure that all the driving areas are as flat as possible and that any gangways or aisles have enough overhead clearance space for the largest lift truck that may be operated in that space. Sharp corners and bends should also be avoided as they can cause collisions and, where possible, it’s a good idea to introduce a one-way system. Although it’s not always possible, you should try to keep pedestrians to a minimum in areas where fork lift trucks are being used and it also increases safety if you fit flashing lights or audible warning devices to warn of the presence of a lift truck close by. Forklift operators must also wear seat belts and, in many cases, a hard hat or helmet and appropriate protective clothing such as gloves and heavy duty boots might be needed.

When it comes to loading fork lift trucks, it’s crucial that the Safe Working Load (SWL) which should be indicated on the lift truck itself is not exceeded and that cages, strong binding or clamps are used to keep the load secure.

Improper Use of Forklift Trucks

All operators should be fully instructed as to the dangers of the improper use of fork lift trucks during their training. This should include not permitting passengers to be carried on any part of the lift truck and no work should ever be allowed where the person is standing on the forks of the lift truck or even a pallet which rests on the forks.


There should be basic routine daily checks made of each forklift before work starts each day and a more comprehensive maintenance check made weekly. A system should also be put in place where all operators know how and where to report defects and any truck that requires maintenance or equipment replacing should be taken out of service until remedial work has been carried out and approved.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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