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Forklift Safety

Did you know that most fatalities occur when a worker is crushed by a forklift that has overturned or fallen from a loading dock?  Each year in the United States, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift–related incidents.

Tips & Resources for Creating a Safe Work Environment: People & Forklifts

The three most common forklift related fatalities involve, forklift overturns, workers on foot being struck by forklifts and workers falling from forklifts.  These fatalities indicate that many workers and employers are not using or may be unaware of safety procedures and the proper use of forklifts to reduce the risk of injury and death.

Steps you can take to create a safer work environment between people and equipment:

  • Do not operate a forklift unless you have been trained.  Have a Certification Program in place before people operate a forklift. It is a violation of Federal law for anyone under 18 years of age to operate a forklift or for anyone over 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified. 
  • Use the seatbelt.  Statistics show that if a forklift tips or falls, the natural reaction is to jump off and injury or death is far more likely if the operator attempts to jump.  The safest place is in the seat and the seatbelt is the restraint system that ensures the operator stays put.
  • Report damage or any problems that occur during your shift to your manager.  Implement a Pre-Operation Safety Checklist for the operator to use for a quick review of the equipment before each shift.
  • Do not raise or lower the forks while the forklift is moving.  This can cause instability if you are carrying a load and you could puncture someone or something if you have a collision.  Always have the forks in a negative pitch as low to the floor as practical adjusting the height when the terrain warrants.
  • SPEED – Operate the forklift at a speed that will allow it to be stopped safety.  Never exceed 5 mph.
  • SLOW DOWN – sound horns at cross isles and watch for others.  While OSHA states that pedestrians have the right of way, a human body will not win if it collides with an 11,000 lb. hunk of metal!  Sounding the horn will alert people of what’s coming.
  • Do not allow passengers to catch a ride.  While this one seems obvious; a forklift is not a toy.


OSHA ( has spread the Final Rule for Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training (Forklifts), which became effective March 1, 1999.  This rule requires that employers ensure that industrial truck operators receive both hands-on and formal training by a qualified trainerRefresher training must be provided when there is an accident or a new miss incident.  The performance of all lift operators must be evaluated at least once every three years. 


To make sure your company is up to date with the most recent forklift safety and training:

OSHA Quick Takes:

Pre-Operation Checklist:

OSHA Pocket Guide:


Written By: Jennifer Lloyd, Payroll Administrator. Jennifer is also the administrator for North Coast Electric’s safety programs.

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