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A beginner's guide to forklift safety

By Contributing Author | 01/05/2018 | 12:52 PM

By Prospero Girardi, Director, Hitec Lift Trucks

A forklift truck is a dangerous piece of machinery, and it goes without saying that you can’t just hop into a truck with no training or experience and drive it away. Every operator must have training and be fully qualified to drive and operate the lifting equipment. The operator must also have completed a training course. This is not just for operator safety, but also for the safety of other staff.

PPE and Hi-vis clothing

In most working areas, you’ll need to wear a hard hat and safety shoes, and a hi-visibility jacket will be required to ensure you can easily be seen.

The clothing needs to fit well, without any trailing ties or accessories, to prevent accidents that occur as a result of clothing being caught in the machinery.

Before starting up

Check that your hands are clean and dry - grease or damp hands could affect your grip on the controls.

Equipment check

While you might use the same forklift every day, you should still do a check of your vehicle before starting it. Look at the tyres, controls, check the steering, the brakes and the mast, and look at any warnings.

If anything is damaged, don’t drive the truck. Follow your company procedures and report it.

Load check

Don’t move off until you have checked your load to make sure it is secure, stable and positioned properly across both forks. Check the height of your load and make sure it is within the permitted height for your work place.

Seating yourself correctly

There are steps and hand grabs on your truck to help you sit in the correct position. Once seated, fasten your seatbelt, and adjust your position to ensure you can comfortably reach the controls. Check your mirrors are in the right position to give you a good field of vision, and ensure you are fully within the cabin of the forklift.

When moving off

Look around you and check for any members of staff within range before driving. Keep to the designated paths for the forklift, and ensure you know the site rules, your truck’s height in relation to entrance and exit heights, and the speed limit.

While moving

Be aware of your surroundings and other people working nearby, and keep your distance from other trucks. You can control what you do, but you can’t control other people.

Watch for signs such as load limits and clearance heights, and take note of any bumps in the road, debris or loose surfaces and drive around them.

Think ahead and make sure that you have enough distances to stop safely.

When handling the load

Check that you can clearly see what you are doing and that you can see the racking that you are aiming for. If you need to, reverse the forklift for better visibility. If visibility is extremely poor, stop driving.

Be safe

Keep your body clear of the mast, especially when it is being lowered, to avoid serious injury, and do not let anyone stand or walk under the machinery or the forks.

When driving on a ramp, drive forwards up the ramp and down in reverse.

If you need to step away for a moment, don’t leave your forklift running and unattended.

Keep focused, and constantly watch out for people, obstacles and other trucks.

Finishing up


At the end of your job, follow company guidelines and park your truck in the designated area. Ensure your forks are lowered completely to the floor and make sure the park brake is on. Turn your forklift off, and take out the key.

As long as you keep safety at the forefront of your mind, concentrate on what you are doing and take constant note of your surroundings, you will be able to do your job safely and without incident.

Prospero Girardi
Prospero Girardi is the Director of Hitec Lift Trucks, a supplier of forklift trucks for hire and purchase, as well as a provider of forklift training, and many other materials handling products and services. 

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