Forklift Safety: Strategies and Best Practices

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

Forklift safety is an ongoing learning experience. Proper training in accordance with OSHA requirements should be the first priority for all forklift operators. It is imperative that anyone who operates a forklift complies with OSHA’s training requirements. OSHA requirements have been in effect since 1999. Since they began mandating the training, forklift accidents have decreased even though the number of forklifts in use has risen steadily. An organization can be fined as much as $100,000 if proper training is not conducted for forklift operators.

Nearly 100 workers are killed each year in forklift related accidents. 24% of these accidents are the result of rollovers. Other accidents include works being struck by the forklift load, by the forklift itself, or workers falling off the forklift.


  • 34,000 serious injuries occur each year

  • Over 100,000 total accidents (serious and non-serious) happen each year

  • 42% of forklift fatalities are from the operator being crushed when the forklift tips over.

  • 25% are crushed between the forklift and a surface (wall, load, etc.)

  • 8% of workers are crushed by material falling from the forklift

  • 4% of workers fall from a platform

Forklift Training:

The major cause of forklift accidents is lack of proper training. Forklift operators, as well as managers and supervisors, must undergo the same training. If supervisors and managers are trained, they will be equipped to correct operators who are making safety mistakes.

Forklift Safety Rules:

  1. OSHA recommends that a forklift driver be over the age of 18.

  2. Create a detailed training program for new employees and repeat the training for existing employees on a regular basis. This training should include:

    • Formal Instruction

    • Practical education

    • Evaluations / tests

  3. Know capacity ratings for the forklift being driven. Forklifts have specific ratings showing how much weight it can handle. Be sure that the weight limitations are posted clearly on the forklift and instruct operators to adhere to those limitations.

  4. Forklifts are equipped with back-up buzzers and warning signals because often it can be hard to see around loads. Train employees to listen for the audible warning signals.

  5. Keep your distance if you are not operating the forklift. Instruct employees to keep a good distance away from the immediate area where forklifts are being used.

  6. Slow Down if you are a forklift operator. Some forklifts come with options to limit their speed. This is a good idea to add to your forklift order. Instruct operators of the maximum speed at which they may operate and enforce those regulations.

  7. Surfaces should be clear, free from debris and safe for operators.

  8. Have regular forklift inspections on each forklift.


  1. Forklifts should be inspected before each shift by the forklift operator:

    • visual inspection (walk-around)

    • A manual inspection of hoses, fluids, chains, etc.

    • Functionality of seat belts, guards and alarms

    • Adjust mirrors for operator

    • Check warning signs and data tag to be sure they are readable

    • Check operator compartment to be sure it is clean and free of debris

    • Condition and inflation of tires

    • Gauges are functional

    • Fueling record (gas –powered forklifts)

Experts agree that training is the most important step in forklift safety. Develop a comprehensive forklift operator training and frequent review. Improper forklift operation results in accidents, damage to products and facilities, and is the result of law suits for companies each year. By following OSHA regulations and adopting strict training rules and regulations at your organization, you can prevent these accidents.

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