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The Function and Uses of Forklift Lights

Posted: November 27, 2017
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Forklift lights are essential and there are many different types of forklift safety lights depending on the types of use or operation you enter. Because of all of the combinations of lights that can end up on a forklift, it can get confusing to understand the function of each. Let’s explore if you need a forklift light, the meaning of what a forklift light communicates when lit, and how forklift lights can be part of a safe working environment.


The most common lights on a forklift are headlights and tail lights (or brake lights). When they are configured on a forklift, headlights are located on the front of the forklift and tail lights are located on the rear or back of the forklift. Three other common forklift lighting accessories useful in a wide variety of operations are strobe lights, blue pedestrian spotlights, and red side pedestrian lights. When they are included on a forklift, these lights are usually located on the back, front and side are are intended to increase the safety in forklift operation.


Do you need any of these forklift lights? The short answer is: it depends. The optional lights you put on your forklifts will depend on your specific operation.

Types and Uses of Forklift Lights:

Forklift Headlights:

OSHA regulation 1910.178(h)(2) states that when general lighting is less than 2 lumens per square foot, auxiliary light shall be provided on the truck. In other words, if you have poor lighting or operate outdoors or at night, you need headlights.


Forklift headlights can also help visibility in low-light environments. They can also help pedestrians and other forklift operators see the truck in poorly lit environments

Forklift Tail or Brake Lights:

Forklifts are usually equipped with tail or brake lights as well. But if a forklift did not come from the manufacturer equipped with tail/brake lights, OSHA does not require you to retrofit your truck.

When lit, Tail/brake lights on a forklift indicate that the forklift is currently in use. These lights allow the forklift to be visible from the rear. Tail/brake lights might be useful in forklift operations where there is a great deal of vehicle and foot traffic, helping to inform those behind a forklift of slowing speed or abrupt stops.

Forklift Strobe Lights, Blue Spotlights, and Red Side Pedestrian Lights:

Strobe lights, blue spotlights, and red side lights on a forklift are not required by OSHA, but adding these lights can help support good safety practices in some work environments, and are generally meant as an approach or warning light.


Strobe lights can illuminate when a forklift is in operation or in reverse and serve as an additional visual indicator that a forklift could begin movement, change speeds, or alter directions quickly. While not useful for safe practices in all operations, different strobe light configurations can enhance safety in certain applications.


Blue pedestrian spotlights are also optional pieces of equipment that may enhance safety in some environments. Where blind intersections are prevalent in an operation, a blue pedestrian safety light can warn other operators and pedestrians in the facility of an approaching forklift.


The Red Side Pedestrian Light projects two red beams on each side of the forklift to illuminate lines that pedestrians need to stay behind when approaching the sides. The Red Side Light may lower the chances of getting hit by the rear end swing of a turning lift truck.


It’s important to note that strobe lights, blue spotlights, and red side pedestrian lights might not be the best choice for some applications. In fact, there are some instances where the use of these optional lights can actually reduce safety. This simply means that you need to take the time to carefully and accurately assess your working environment before deciding what lights should be placed on your forklift.


Regardless of what forklift lights may be installed, operators should perform a daily check if you have any of these lights installed on your forklift. OSHA may not require you to have them, but if you do, they must be working properly.


For more information on the placement of lights and the types of bulbs available, check out this article on forklift lighting options.

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