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16 Simple Tips for operating a forklift safely

Filed under: Forklift Operators - Safety & Guides

Below are some simple tips to follow to ensure safe operation of forklifts.  Although these tips are simple and quite basic they are a good starting point to support workplace health and safety guidelines. 

forklift safety tips 3 point entry

1. Operators must be qualified

  • Operating forklifts should only be done by individuals who have been trained properly and contain a licence to operate the equipment.

2. Appropriate clothing must be worn.

  • It needs to be ensured that operators wear the appropriate safety work wear; usually consisting of a hard hat, safety shoes and hi-visibility jackets.
  • The work wear must be reasonably fitted as any loose clothing can get caught on machinery.
  • Don’t operate/hold any of the controls when your hands have grease on them; it may cause them to slide off and cause an accident.

3. Examine Equipment before use

  • Operators should do a routine check of the equipment before driving them.  Some things you should check for any faults are brakes, steering, controls, warning devices, mast and tyres.
  • If there are any noted damages or problems management should be notified and the forklift should not be operated if it needs to be repaired.
  • Always consider the ‘journey’s end’ of a load before picking it up.  A convenient position of a load from pick up may not be convenient for stacking.

4. Starting up the forklift

  • For safety purposes it’s important for the operator to make use of the steps and hand grabs to seat themselves correctly in the forklift.
  • Before starting the forklift it’s important to ensure all the equipment’s controls are in reach and the seat position and mirrors are adjusted to the operator’s needs.
  • The operator should not start the forklift until they are correctly seated with their safety belt fastened and all parts of their body are safely inside the confines of the operators cabin or the forklift.

5. Consider the surrounding environment

  • Whilst operating a forklift you must pay attention and follow any work site rules and guidelines.
  • The operator must only drive the equipment in the machinery’s designated roadways.
  • Observe all signs, especially those on maximum permitted floor loadings and clearance heights.
  • Be aware of the height of the load, mast and overhead guard of the forklift when entering or exiting buildings.
  • Be careful when operating a forklift near the edge of a loading dock or ramp - the forklift can fall over the edge - keep a safe distance from the edge.
  • Do not operate on bridge plates, unless they can support the weight of the forklift and load.

6. Operate at a safe speed

  • Never proceed past the speed limit.
  • Take corners and any turns slowly to minimise risk of tipping.
  • Make any changes in direction or any stops gradually and slowly.

7. Avoid Hazards

  • Steer clear of any bumps or uneven ground surfaces along with slippery conditions.
  • Steer clear of loose ground objects which could cause loss of control over the equipment or a load to move around.
  • Use the horn when closing in on a corner or doorway/entrance and around people to alert pedestrians or other forklift operators of your whereabouts to avoid any unnecessary collision.
  • Keep a safe distance from other trucks in case they move in an unpredictable manner.
  • Make sure that you always have enough space to stop safely.

8. Ensure your load is stable and secure

  • Check the loads carefully before moving them for stability and damage.
  • It is important to ensure that the load is tilted back with the forks sitting low whilst transporting in order to increase truck stability.
  • Check for any overhead objects before lifting or stacking loads.
  • Do not lift or move loads that are not safe or stable.
  • Make sure loads are correctly stacked and positioned across both forks.
  • Stack the load on the pallet or skid safely and correctly.
  • Use securing measures such as ropes or bindings if required.

9. Make sure you have clear visibility

  • Operate the forklift in reverse when it improves visibility; except when moving up ramps.
  • It is important to make sure you can see the racking clearly in which you are positioning your load.
  • If visibility is poor do not continue driving; in some circumstances you may need a lookout helper to assist you.

10. Forklifts are for Carrying Loads only

  • Operators must not let others ride on the equipment unless another seat is fitted safely to the forklift for a second person.
  • If a person has to be lifted, use only a securely attached work platform and cage and follow the appropriate operating instructions.

11. Keep Clear of the Mast

  • Do not authorise anyone to stand or walk under the load or forklift machinery - The load can fall causing injury or death.
  • Keep hands and feet clear of the cross members of the mast - Serious injury can be caused if the mast is lowered while your hand is on it.

12. Driving on Ramps

  • When driving up ramps’ move in a forward direction and down ramps in reverse, especially while carrying loads.
  • Do not load or unload goods or turn whilst on a ramp.

13. Ensure the forklift is not Over-loaded

  • Do not use the tip of the forks as a lever to raise a heavy load.
  • Do not push a load with the tip of the forks.
  • Know the capacity of your forklift and any attachments being used and never exceed this capacity.
  • An overload can cause the rear tyres to be raised off the ground and may cause the forklift to tip over.

14. Ensure the Load is evenly distributed

  • Do not lift or move a load unless both forks are fully under the load.
  • Do not lift a load with one fork. Use pallets and skids that can withstand the weight of the load.
  • Do not use damaged, deformed or decayed pallets for holding loads.

15. Refuelling

  • A forklift should only be refuelled at specially designated locations.
  • Switch off the forklift.
  • For IC engine forklifts, no open flame or sparks are permitted, and refuelling should take place in a well-ventilated area.

16. When the Shift Ends

  • After use ensure the forklift is parked in a designated or authorised area.
  • Fully lower the forks to the floor and apply the park brake.
  • Turn the forklift “off” and remove the key.
  • Do not leave a forklift running whilst unattended.


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Simply great!! I enjoyed the post and those tips are very easy to control. I think operating a forklift will not going to be big problem for me. Thanks

Mandy John
May 14, 2012 - 10:28 pm

I think these are very useful to be a perfect Forklift operator. These tips are very useful for the forklift operators.

Forklifts Sales
December 13, 2012 - 3:15 pm

Thanks for posting these - I’m about to go for a forklift license, and have found your blogs about ergonomics, safety and technical terms to be very enlightening - thank you!

January 02, 2013 - 11:04 pm

Thanks for sharing! My dad was talking with a guy that sold used forklifts in Vancouver last week and ended up buying one. I don’t know what he was thinking, he’s never operated heavy machinery in his life. These are great tips for someone like him to start with. Thanks again!

Holly James
March 19, 2013 - 6:55 am

If any one never driven a forklift before, this blog will certainly help! Driving a forklift is nothing like driving an automobile. By following these tips would avoid accident to certain extent.

January 31, 2014 - 6:34 pm

I am a new student in the forklift training school and after reading this blog.I have had an idea of my career    

March 03, 2014 - 6:51 pm

I want to more about to operate forklift    

March 20, 2014 - 1:24 am

    The 16 simple tips for operating is educating.I am a forklift operator by proffesssion,I wish to have more of this imformation.Thanks.

Adako Joshua
July 22, 2014 - 9:44 pm

i am a forklift trainer in Houston TX and you nailed it. great post.

September 04, 2014 - 1:11 am

When you say that those that operate a forklift must be qualified, do you mean that they need a license or permit? I don’t have either, and I operate a forklift all of the time. Is that bad? I have been trained, so that should be good enough, right?

Kent Clark
December 12, 2014 - 12:37 pm

Hi Kent,

No, you need a forklift licence to operate a forklift. You can contact your nearest forklift training centre and speak to them about how to get a licence.

AAL Admin
January 20, 2015 - 3:16 pm

  Good general comments about the care and operation of a forklift.

Karl Gunnarsson
April 10, 2015 - 1:08 pm

Tip number one is definitely the most important aspect when it comes to operating a fork lift. I used to work in a factory where no one was truly qualified to operate a forklift. It was always scary to be around when someone was driving that thing. Proper training is a must when operating machinery like that. It isn’t worth the risk otherwise.

gary birtles
April 23, 2015 - 3:11 am

These are great tips for driving a forklift! My husband and I are going to be doing some major home renovations soon, and we’re thinking a forklift might come in handy. Thanks for mentioning that when driving up ramps, you need to move in a forward direction and down ramps in reverse, especially while carrying loads. I’ll keep that in mind, for sure!

April 24, 2015 - 1:08 am

I’m just getting into operating a forklift and I find your page to be very knowledgeable and I will use everything I’ve read to help me become a very professional forklift operator Thanks

Janice zachery
August 13, 2015 - 12:05 pm

Great safety tips! I always like to recommend students to blogs such as this!

George Matthews

George Matthews
September 29, 2015 - 4:46 am

Thanks for this article. I start my forklift operator job in a few hours and I just wanted to get some preliminary knowledge.                     

November 03, 2015 - 4:39 am

        Good Post!!!But missed the precautions during or parked for charging

Shereef nellur
November 25, 2015 - 3:37 pm

                Dear sir,
i am a hse officer in abu dhabi, this guidlines very useful and appreciate your concern ,good job

February 09, 2016 - 2:16 am

In every warehouse job I have had, they always tell us floor workers to be cautious of the forklifts, and I never heard them say anything to the forklift drivers, now I know how they stayed safe. I feel like one of the best tips here is number 13, because you can do everything right and screw up here and that could be very dangerous. You can be the safest forklift driver, but it can get dangerous, if you overload the forklift you could end up hurting yourself, others, and breaking the machine! Thanks for that awesome list and new information!

Pancho Cham
April 01, 2016 - 12:15 am

    This helped me to develop SOP for forklift operation

r b shetty
April 05, 2016 - 8:10 pm

Would anyone know the proper way to store forklift forks when not attached to the forklift? Is there a standard of practice or is it just a recommendation? I am located in Ontario which is in Canada if that helps.                       

Adam Seidlitz
April 20, 2016 - 7:31 am

  when driving a forklift do you have to have one hand on the steering and one on the controls or both hands on the steering or one hand steering and the other on your lap?                     

Ana. Van De Ven
May 10, 2016 - 5:41 pm

I like that you pointed out that the first thing you should do is make sure your operators are qualified. That does seem like the best way to keep them and everyone else safe. A simple way to do that would be to check if they have heavy vehicle licences.

Emily Bennette
May 11, 2016 - 12:38 pm

                    am intrested in this field.but how can i start My carrier?

May 24, 2016 - 11:21 pm

responsibility increases when you are driving a gasoline or propane forklift. At this time it becomes very essential to track time to prevent carbon-monoxide to reach unsafe levels.

Phil Emmerton
June 17, 2016 - 10:36 pm

Taking a forklift training just take 2-3 days only and the training must be matched with the type of lift truck an operator will be driving.
                [url=] [/url]

Mike Pattenson
July 01, 2016 - 10:49 am

These are good tips to keep in mind while operating a forklift. Thank you for posting this!

Patricia Anderson
August 30, 2016 - 7:07 am

Operating heavy machinery can be dangerous. It might be helpful to have employees review or go through a quick training about safety issues. Everyone could use a good reminder from time to time.

Zequek Estrada
September 10, 2016 - 6:33 am

All these tips are important when operating forklift machine. Its help to prevent from any wear and tear and can protect from injuries.                 

Lenny Estrin
September 24, 2016 - 3:31 pm

Hi! good internet site.

October 19, 2016 - 11:14 am

I’m glad you mention driving up ramps forward and down in reverse. I wouldn’t have thought about how that would be the safest way to drive a forklift on ramps. I can see how doing it the opposite way could end up spilling the load.

Georgia B
November 22, 2016 - 3:39 am

I didn’t realize there are proper licences to operate lifts! I really appreciate your tip that work wear should be reasonably fitted so no loose clothing gets caught on the lifts or any machinery.

Baxter Abel
December 06, 2016 - 11:47 am

on high reach or reach truck, why do we need to drive with forks 3 to 6” above the floor with or without the load?

December 11, 2016 - 4:03 am

I really like the tip to avoid hazards. I saw a video of a forklift operator who had a large load on the front and went through a large garage door and hit someone. I’ve been very cautious around forklifts since then, and if I ever need a forklift to help me with anything, I’m going to hire a professional.

Max Jones
March 25, 2017 - 9:13 am

Nice blog and absolutely outstanding. You can do something much better but i still say this perfect.Keep trying for the best.

March 27, 2017 - 4:45 pm

I have heard conflicting information on proper fork position when driving unloaded, and have seen people operate at varying heights when unloaded. I know the fork is supposed to be downgrade, but what is considered proper height from surface when unloaded? Nothing on this, even on the OSHA site.
I myself like to keep the forks 4-6” up, in case of unseen obstruction in aisles such as misplaced stack base lumber, gon lids, etc (I know you are supposed to see everything, but in an imperfect world where the operator cannot control the environmental variables, anything that can go wrong very well may).
Others have said 2” from surface is orthodox.

Any input on this?

G A Graham
May 26, 2017 - 1:44 pm

A simple way to do that would be to check if they have heavy vehicle licenses.

June 05, 2017 - 8:04 pm

wow its a great information i learned it that’s why i like this…..........(:                       

June 07, 2017 - 6:14 pm

These are great tips for someone like him to start with. Thanks again!

superior leather
June 08, 2017 - 8:28 pm

                  Good general comments about the care and operation of a forklift.

security guard agencies
July 08, 2017 - 4:46 am

          It’s good to know that when it comes to being a forklift operator, that they must be certified to use it. When I go to places that there are people driving them, it will make me feel better knowing they are qualified to be on it. It really does make that location feel like a safer environment.

Harper Campbell
July 14, 2017 - 1:22 am

Outstanding Blog.. I saw a video of forklift. Really i appreciate your tips.. Thankyou

July 25, 2017 - 5:11 pm

These are really great tips thanks for sharing.                       

August 09, 2017 - 12:36 am

                      I think your tip about operating a forklift at a safe speed is crucial. There are so many times that I’ve been in a store where the workers were using them at high speeds. I think they were just playing around, but they shouldn’t have been doing that. At what speed would you suggest that an operator use a forklift at?

September 10, 2017 - 4:24 am

My husband is looking for forklift training, so he is grateful for the tips you talked about. Those should help him find the right one for him! He’s a pretty hands-on learner, so he’ll have to find one that gives him experience as well.

Raisa Delima
September 22, 2017 - 11:00 am

I’m glad you talked about operating the forklift at a slow speed. I think many accidents could be avoided with the proper training and safe operation methods. Going slow would probably do a lot to prevent problems from happening!

Raisa Delima
October 01, 2017 - 4:49 am

  Hello. can you tell me how many hours should someone drive a forklift in one day, i do drive the forklift many hours but this is hurting my back and knees.


October 17, 2017 - 3:01 pm

good points

October 21, 2017 - 6:34 pm

                        I really like these it help me a lot

November 22, 2017 - 2:35 am

Good Day!!

This post was so interesting and very useful for me as a safety officer in logistic company in Malaysia. TQ. nice job..

November 27, 2017 - 12:43 pm

        very educative, like your tips

December 03, 2017 - 10:18 pm

                      It was useful to me because am into learning on how to use forklifts and drive

December 06, 2017 - 7:30 pm

If you have a load which you cant see past and your going up a ramp should you travel with the load trailing or Should you have a spotter at the door and go through with the load leading. There seems to be no clear answer as they all seem to conflict each other. Also the ramp crosses 2 heavy pedestrian areas so going in forward up the ramp is a very dangerous. Any help                  

Kiley Hunia
January 16, 2018 - 8:59 am

  What are the rules when getting off the towmotor ? is it okay to leave the motor running ?                     

Mark Collins
January 17, 2018 - 3:57 am

Great Page!

February 04, 2018 - 4:48 pm

This post was so interesting and very useful for me as a safety officer in logistic company in Malaysia. TQ. nice job..

abu dhabi sightseeing tour from dubai
March 10, 2018 - 4:41 am

Great Tips! I would like to add one more is to make sure that your forklifts horns work properly. A horn is the best tool a driver can have to warn of oncoming traffic, warn pedestrians, and help pedestrians                        

Vipul Patel@ BOBEngineeringCo.
March 14, 2018 - 10:51 pm

It is very informative blog and given some extra knowledge, i will share this blog as much as I can.

Equipment Trader Online
April 16, 2018 - 8:56 pm

                      One of my favorite parts of this article is when you talk about making sure that the load is evenly distributed. I am always nervous about tipping the forklift over when using it. Thank you for your advice on using a forklift.

Wade Joel
May 26, 2018 - 4:43 am

Forklift Certification is a pretty fast process.

May 29, 2018 - 10:31 am

Thanks for sharing these helpful tips. Though, I would also like to add one more important suggestion to a forklift operator which is, never raise or lower the forklift unless the forklift is stopped or the break is set.

Sarah Smith
June 07, 2018 - 12:07 am

  Thank U for the 16 simple tips i needed ..for the safety of the operator and the workers .

Freddy Redjopawiro
June 28, 2018 - 10:47 pm

I have a lot of friends who work in construction and a lot of them have told me about accidents involving forklifts. I like that this article provides many tips for operating a forklift safely. I never knew there was a certain type of clothing to wear, it makes sense that loose clothing may get caught in the machinery.

Heidi Bookenstock
July 13, 2018 - 6:41 am

You Shared a great Article. You have so much knowledge.

Massive Brand Online
August 11, 2018 - 8:49 pm

Thank you for sharing information, its nice article

Process Skids Manufacturers
September 22, 2018 - 12:28 am

                      This article is very helpful to me

November 08, 2018 - 9:30 pm

                  nice post

generic name
December 06, 2018 - 11:56 pm

Awesome tips! Also width of your aisles & the height of your stacking should not exceed the maximum tolerance of your forklifts.

Neil Johnson
December 11, 2018 - 8:17 pm

This article has been a big help for me. Thanks I was able to read this one

December 29, 2018 - 9:59 pm

Great Tips for operating a forklift safely. A great guide that needs to be referred by those who work as a Forklift Operator.

Anna Chris
January 26, 2019 - 3:07 am

  I am really happy to read this web site posts which includes tons of
valuable data, thanks for providing these information.

Sabtain raza
February 08, 2019 - 10:21 pm

                      Everything that I need is already here.

John Smith
March 22, 2019 - 11:42 pm

            its actually my first lesson today but its the right start till date
thank you for the information

March 26, 2019 - 6:12 pm

      This article is something that we need to share beacuse of the information that might help others.

Carl Cruz
March 27, 2019 - 8:57 pm

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