80/20 Forklift Rule: Reducing Tip-Overs

Material Handling Best Practices, Tips, Information and More from Toyota

Knowing the safest way to load a forklift is one of the most important skills a forklift operator or facility manager can learn. Too often, tipovers are caused by overloading a forklift and could have been prevented with some training on best practices for loading.

In general, a counter-balanced forklift is designed so that a maximum of 80 percent of the total weight (the weight of the lift, plus the weight of the load) can be put on the front axle. 20 percent must remain on the back axle to counterbalance the load and prevent tipover.

Just as important as understanding this fundamental axle weight distribution is to remember that the distance of the load center from the front axle has a direct impact on safe lifting capacity. Common counter-balanced forklifts usually perform at maximum operating capacity when the load center is 24” from the front axle, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But we all know that loads don’t always have the perfect size or weight distribution to make this peak performance possible. So what happens when your load center is, for example, 30” away from the front axle? If you try to lift at maximum capacity, you’re in danger of tipping your forklift. The farther your load center extends away from the front axle, the more you must reduce the weight of your payload.

In order to calculate the safe lifting capacity for a load center that extends beyond the manufacturer recommendation, OSHA recommends the following formula:

Forklift’s Rated Load Center/The Actual Load Center X The Stated Forklift Load Capacity

Here is a hypothetical example based on a forklift with a rated load center of 24” and capacity of 5000 lbs. If the actual load center extends to 30”, calculate the safe load capacity in this way:

24”/30” = .80

.80 X 5000 = 4000 lbs.

The safe load capacity in this instance is 4000 lbs.

One dangerous way that untrained operators attempt to make up for a too heavy payload or problematic weight distribution is by asking other people to sit on the back of the forklift. But the weight of a single or even multiple individuals is unlikely to prevent tipover. Instead, the operator has created a situation where he has put both his and other lives in danger. His co-workers are also in violation of safety regulation laws. To prevent this, be sure to train operators on proper weight distribution and capacity reduction procedures. For more information about safety training and lifting capacities, please visit your local Toyota Dealer.

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