The forklift truck has become the workhorse of modern warehousing operations.  They allow us to move substantial loads with speed, ease, and relative safety.  Forklifts, as these trucks are so often called, come in many makes, models, and sizes that can be configured with removable parts that make it possible to move just about anything in any industrial setting.  Their ease of operation makes forklift operation easy to master but an operator must never forget he’s working with heavy industrial machinery that commands respect. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 100 workers every year are killed in accidents involving forklifts and 20,000 more are seriously injured.  Training, licensing, and operator certification measures are so vital to forklift truck safety that private industry, the military, and government regulatory agencies at every level have developed programs to keep forklift operation as safe as possible.

 Use a forklift inspection checklist like this one to log daily inspections. 

The safest forklift is the well-maintained forklift.  At the beginning of every shift, a visual inspection of every forklift to be used will improve safety and increase productivity throughout the work day.  A visual inspection at the end of every shift quickly identifies any vehicles that need maintenance or require cleaning before next use. 

Checklist for Visual Inspection 

Forklifts are often employed in rugged conditions that leave them dirty, muddy, or covered with grime from any source.  Clean machines are vital for optimum mechanical performance and safety.  No one likes working in filthy conditions but dirt also hides defects that can lead to danger.  Before using a forklift, consider this checklist for visual inspection: 

  • Work area uncluttered and free of debris that could cause accidents
  •  Any danger zones identified
  •  Overhead space provides plenty of clearance and no risk of falling  objects
  •  Fire extinguisher in reach and ready to use
  •  Engine fluids — fuel, oil, water — at workable levels
  •  Battery at full charge and securely fixed to machine
  •  Electrolyte levels in battery as required for maximum     performance
  •   No exposed battery cable wires
  •   Battery cable connects firmly fixed and in sound operational state
  •   Vent caps clear and free of clogs
  •    All hold-downs or brackets tightly in place
  •    No damaged, loose, or missing nuts, bolts, chains, hoses, or guards
  •    Tires and wheels in sound working condition
  •     Pneumatic tires properly inflated
  •     Forks in safe working condition, no bends or cracks
  •     All positioning latches fully functional
  •     Carriage teeth intact with no breaks, chips, or worn areas
  •     Chain anchor pins in good working order, not bent, loose, or worn
  •      No evidence of leaks or drips underneath the vehicle
  •      All hoses securely in place, not crimped, loose, worn, or rubbing  together dangerously 

Checklist for Operational Pre-Use Inspection

When conditions look good on and around the forklift, conduct an inspection to gauge how well the machine is running before tackling a day’s work.  Make this checklist for operational pre-use inspection a routine part of every shift for every operator of every forklift on the job: 

  •   The horn must be working loud enough to be heard in the workplace, no matter how loud
  •   Other devices that give warning during operations must be fully functional
  •    Braking system — does the pedal hold?  Does the unit stop smoothly every time?
  •    Parking brake holds even against minor acceleration
  •    Deadman seat brake secure as operator sits and rises from the seat
  •    Clutch and gears shift smoothly, with no jumps or jerks
  •     Dash control panel fully operational, with all lights and gauges fully functional
  •     Steering mechanism works smoothly
  •     Lift mechanism works smoothly when empty forks are raised to maximum height and then lowered
  •     Tilt mechanism works smoothly when mast is moved to maximum degree forward and backward
  •    Cylinders and hoses free from leaks or defects
  •    No unusual sounds are produced when machine is in operation 

It is vitally important to make sure every person who operates a forklift is fully trained and legally qualified to do so.  It is equally important to have only fully qualified personnel to service and maintain every forklift. 

Forklift Operation 

 Never use a coworker as counterweight to balance a load that’s too heavy or that must be lifted too high. 

The basic function of a forklift is the same but every work environment comes with a unique set of situations and circumstances.  Mastery of basic forklift operation is important but optimum safety comes when the operator knows how to effectively operate the machine in the environment where it will be put to work. 

It’s human nature to minimize the danger of operating a forklift when it’s been done safely and routinely over time but accidents happen in the blink of an eye.  Vigilance is required every minute of operation. 


The ride’s a little bit different when a forklift is carrying a heavy load or when it’s empty.  Either way, safety always comes first.  The safest forklift operator will make safe driving habits such a routine part of his workday that they become effortless, no matter if traveling with a full load or not.

  •          Keep all body parts inside the truck —  head, hands, feet, arms, everything
  •          Keep other objects inside the truck, too, including lunch boxes, overcoats, and communication devices
  •          Always keep forks as low to the ground as possible
  •          Keep forks tilted back whenever possible
  •          Obey all workplace traffic signs
  •          Turning corners — slow down, honk the horn, and be mindful of the swing of the vehicle, front and back
  •          Avoid quick or sudden stops
  •          Travel slowly in reverse if the load is so large it’s impossible to see over it traveling forward
  •          Look only in the direction the machine is moving
  •          Stay well clear of all people, other vehicles, loose objects, slick or wet spots, holes, and rough surfaces
  •          Respect the truck’s blind spots, when empty and when fully loaded
  •          Any time a pedestrian, another forklift, or any moving vehicle crosses or shares the intended route, always stop the forklift then lower the load as far as possible and wait till the route is clear again before resuming operation 

Traveling on an Incline 

Slopes and uneven work surfaces challenge forklift safety and require special maneuvers.  When traveling on an incline: 

  •          Never attempt a turn on uneven ground; save turns for level surfaces only
  •          No load?  Keep forks pointed down the incline
  •          Loaded?  Keep loaded forks pointed uphill at all times 


There’s no power steering here so driver skill is all the more important.  Important steering safety skills include: 

  •          Turning only with the rear wheels so the front wheels need only support the load
  •          Make no sharp turns
  •          The heavier the load, the wider the turns
  •          An overloaded fork is a dangerous fork; don’t overload it
  •          Never add a counterweight to the back of the truck, especially not a human counterweight 

Tomorrow, we will continue with more information about forklift safety and a list of additional things to be aware of to guarantee safety in loading, unloading, handling pallets, safety while loading into railroad cars, and much more.

Author Bio: Joana Kylee is an authorized dealer of superior quality forklift forks, forklift seats and all types forklift spare parts for major brands of lift trucks with same day shipping.

Article submitted by Andrea Bernie.