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7 Easy Steps for Forklift Safety

  • October 10, 2012

The following statistics are from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration.  In 2011 the organization conducted a total of 92,704 inspections across the United States.  OSHA calculated that approximately 13 deaths occur every day from on the job from fatal work injuries. Yale Material Handling Corporation has conducted many studies on forklift safety and defined 7 aspects that affect forklift truck safety.

  1. Operator Training: Making sure that all of your operators are fully equipped with the proper training is essential to the safety of the operator, pedestrians, and your inventory! OSHA clearly states that “Only trained and authorized operators shall be permitted to operate a powered industrial truck.” Proper forklift safety training should occur in three steps: formal instruction, practical training, and evaluation of the training.  Ensure that the operator is knowledgeable in the limits of the forklift, how to refuel or charge the battery, and other operating instructions, precautions, or warnings in the operator training. OSHA estimates that its operator training requirements can prevent an additional 11 deaths and more than 9,000 injuries per year.
  2. Pedestrian rules and training: Awareness is the biggest key in training pedestrians and employees roaming in the vicinity of the forklifts.  Defining the rules with signs, stickers, or even reminders from time to time are easy and effective solutions to keeping your employees safe and helping your operators work in a stress free environment. The following are some examples of workplace rules that are suitable in some applications and may help to reduce or prevent the incidence of forklift/pedestrian accidents:
  • Require forklift operators to stop and sound the steering wheel horn at intersections

or before passing through plastic strip curtains.

  • Restrict customers and non-employees from areas where forklifts may be operating
  • Limit forklift travel speed
  • Use of hi-visibility work clothes or vests for pedestrians
  • Require pedestrians not to come closer than a predetermined distance from the

forklift, even when speaking to the operator.

  1. Proper equipment maintenance: To prevent accidents such as battery explosions, forklift malfunctions, or pedestrian accidents, stay up to date on your equipment maintenance.  If you have a large fleet it may be a good idea to hire a fleet management service to remind you when to have maintenance on your equipment.
  2. Pre-Operational Inspection: A full understanding from the operator is essential, and it is recommended to inspect your truck (batteries, tires, motor, etc.) and equipment before and after every shift.
  3. Fork Inspections:  Aside from making sure that your forklift is sufficient for the type of materials your operator is handling, it is a good idea to frequently inspect the forks that you are operating with.  Loads can weigh thousands of pounds and having equipment that can handle the load will prevent unnecessary accidents.
  4. Lift trucks designed with new technologies offering system-controlled functionality: Yale/Chase offers many new technology add-ons that can assist in safe operating, some include auto park brakes, highly visible seatbelts, visible flashing strobe lights, and audible alarms.
  5. Accessories tailored to your application: To ensure the safety of your operator and staff make sure to think about all the extra details some examples include: Having the correct chargers for your batteries, making sure that you have the correct lift for your operation (Internal Combustion for outdoor operations), or selecting forklift attachments that are capable of the lifting the weight of a load. You can also prevent further injury by having accessories like an eyewash station near your charging station.

Quick Tips:

  • Know your forklift; overloading your truck can result in overturned forklifts or people being crushed by forklifts.
  • Keep your hands and feet away from pinch points such as beneath the tire and between moving parts.


If you’d like more information or full details on all of the OSHA rules and regulations for forklift safety visit their website, or look for a forklift safety manual distributed from a credible source.

OSHA forklift safety PDF

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