Forklifts are great for moving materials. But this worker isn’t moving his load in the safest way possible. What’s he doing wrong?

Forklift Safety

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Forklifts are like cars—you need to be able to see where you’re going. Here, to see around the large load while driving, the worker has raised it high so he can see underneath it. But by doing so, he’s made the forklift unstable and likely to tip over while in motion.

Forklift Safety Tips

Forklifts are common and useful equipment in many workplaces, especially warehouses. But they can pose safety hazards to the workers operating them and others in the workplace if they’re not used properly.

For example, instead of driving with the load high so he can see, the worker in the picture should lower the load and drive in reverse.

Improperly operating a forklift with an obstructed view is a serious safety infraction. And if you discipline a worker for doing so, a court or arbitrator is likely to support you.

Example: A worker in Ontario loaded his forklift with ten 30” wooden reels. But instead of turning around and driving the forklift backwards so his view wasn’t obstructed, he drove forward. The worker had to brake suddenly to miss hitting a co-worker, causing the load to shift and strike the co-worker, who was injured and out for seven weeks.

It was standard operating procedure in the workplace to travel in reverse when carrying a vision-obstructing load. The plant also had rules barring the operation of a forklift with an obstructed view. And the company had just issued a memo reminding workers to travel in reverse or have a spotter if the load blocked their view. So it suspended the worker for five days. And an arbitrator upheld that discipline [Belden CDT (Canada) Inc. v. United Steelworkers Local 7175-01 (Mason Grievance), [2011] O.L.A.A. No. 663, Dec. 20. 2011].

Here are some more safety tips for workers operating forklift:

  • Operators should make sure a load doesn’t exceed the forklift’s load capacity.
  • The load on a forklift should be stable, secured and evenly distributed before a worker attempts to move it.
  • On slopes, operators should always keep the load uphill—that is, they should back down the slope and go forward when moving up the slope.
  • Workers should never raise or lower a load while the forklift is in motion.
  • Forklift operators should observe all the speed limits and traffic signs, stopping at all intersections. They should also avoid making quick turns and sudden stops.

If you want to be sure that your workers know how to safely operate forklifts, give them this quiz to test their knowledge of forklift safe work practices.

It’s also a good idea to require workers to inspect forklifts at the start of their shifts before using the equipment. Here’s an inspection checklist they can use for that purpose

Go to to buy posters for your workplace on forklift safety—including one that says “Carry It Low and Keep It Slow!

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