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Five Ways to Celebrate National Forklift Safety Day

Forklift with a heavy load mobile view

June 14 is National Forklift Safety Day, and what better way to celebrate than with some forklift safety facts.

  • In the United States, 1 in 6 of all workplace deaths are forklift-related
  • Forklift-related accidents cost U.S. business $135,000,000 in lost time
  • 90 percent of all forklifts will be involved in some type of accident during their useful lifetime

If your workplace uses forklifts, EMC suggests the following five ways you can celebrate National Forklift Safety Day to help reduce the likelihood and severity for forklift-related accidents.

  1. Review Your Forklift Training Program

    According to OSHA, operator training must occur before an employee is permitted to operate any forklift. Forklifts require a specialized set of skills and an employee’s ability to drive a car has little to do with their ability to drive a forklift. Make sure your forklift training program includes the following required topics:
    • Operating instructions, warnings and precautions for the type(s) of forklift the operator will be authorized to operate
    • Differences between forklifts and automobiles
    • Forklift controls and instrumentation: Where they are located, what they do and how they work
    • Engine or motor operation
    • Steering and maneuvering
    • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading)
    • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation and use limitations
    • Vehicle capacity and stability
    • Vehicle inspection and maintenance
    • Refueling and/or charging of batteries
    • Operating limitations
    Forklift operators should also be aware of these workplace-specific topics:
    • Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated
    • Load stability, manipulation, stacking and unstacking
    • Pedestrian traffic areas
    • Narrow aisles and other restricted places
    • Hazardous locations where the vehicle will be operated
    • Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle’s stability
    • Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust
    • Any other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation
  2. Schedule Refresher Training

    Schedule necessary refresher training for any forklift operator when:
    • The operator has been observed operating in an unsafe manner
    • The operator has been involved in an accident or near-hit incident
    • The operator receives an unsatisfactory evaluation
    • The operator is assigned to a different type of forklift
    • A change in the workplace could affect safe operation of the forklift
  3. Schedule Operator Evaluations

    OSHA requires that an evaluation of each forklift operator’s performance be conducted at least once every three years. This evaluation should include a discussion with the operator regarding his or her experience with the forklift, an observation of the employee operating the forklift and written documentation that the evaluation was performed. EMC recommends checking to make sure your forklift operators complete the following steps during their evaluation:
    • Surveys forklift for damage each shift
    • Mounts properly using three points of contact
    • Picks up the load safely and observes capacity limits
    • Travels with the load at a safe height
    • Maintains a safe speed
    • Slows down when cornering, sounds horn if necessary
    • Places load safely and securely
    • Parks the forklift in a safe location
    • Demonstrates the proper fueling or battery charging procedure
    • Checks that wheels of the trailer are chocked before entering trailer

    All operator evaluations should be documented, including the name of the operator, the date of the evaluation and the name of the person performing the evaluation.

  4. Vehicle Inspections

    To keep forklifts well maintained and forklift operators safe, forklifts should be inspected before each shift for hazards that could affect their safe performance. OSHA-required preshift inspections of forklifts should include checking the following:
    • Roll over protection system (ROPS)–Are there broken welds, missing bolts or damaged areas?
    • Hydraulic cylinders–Is there leakage or damage to the lift, tilt or attachment functions of the cylinders?
    • Mast assembly–Are there broken welds, cracked or bent areas, worn and/or missing stops?
    • Forks–Are there cracks, bends, wear or uneven fork length; excessive water or other fluids on the forks?
    • Tires–Are there large cuts that run the circumference of the tire, large pieces of rubber missing or separated from the rim, missing lugs or bond separation that may cause slippage?
    • Gauges–Are they functioning properly?
    • Steering–Is there excessive free play? Is the power steering pump (if applicable) malfunctioning?
    • Brakes–Do you need to push the pedal to the floor for the brakes to work? Do the brakes function when unit is in reverse?
    • Load-handling attachments–Is there any hesitation when hoisting or lowering forks, using the forward or backward tilt or the lateral travel on the side shift? Is there any excessive hydraulic fluid on the cylinders?
    • Fluid levels–Inspect the levels of each of these fluids to check for leaks: brake fluid, hydraulic fluid, transmission fluid, engine oil and engine coolant.
    • Battery–Are there missing cell caps, terminal covers or damaged insulation on cables?
    • Propane tank–Is the tank guard bracket locked down? Do you detect a propane gas odor?
    • Propane hose–Is the hose in good condition meaning not frayed, pinched, kinked or bound?

    If any problems are identified, the forklift should be repaired before its next use

  5. Protect Pedestrians From Accidents

    Almost half of all people injured by a forklift are nondrivers. EMC recommends you share these tips from WorkSafe British Columbia with pedestrians working in or visiting your facility.
    • See eye-to-eye–Make eye contact with the driver. Confirm the driver is aware of your presence by waiting for him or her to acknowledge you. Never cross or approach a forklift until you’re certain the driver has seen you.
    • Don’t trust your ear–Even large forklifts can be silent. Especially if the forklift is coasting, it may be nearly inaudible in a bustling warehouse environment. Be especially careful at blind corners. It may be helpful to install mirrors or forklift activated warning mechanisms at blind corners.
    • Make yourself stand out–Forklifts often have large attachments, chains, bars and other obstructions in the driver’s line of sight. Double check before crossing an aisle. Wear a high visibility vest to increase your visibility to an operator.
    • Use marked pedestrian lanes and crossings–Drivers expect to see pedestrians at crosswalks or pedestrian aisles, and they will typically be more cognizant when they cross them.
    • Remind yourself that forklifts are dangerous from all sides–In fact, the rear of a forklift might be more dangerous than the front because a driver is probably concentrating on the rack or load in front of him or her when backing up. Don’t approach a forklift from the side if you can help it. The back end can swing quickly if the driver backs up or changes angles.
    • If you can’t see it, it can’t see you–Expect a forklift anyplace where you can’t see around a corner or past a rack aisle. Pay attention to your surroundings.
    • Know a little physics–When a forklift turns a corner, remember that the outside end of a long load travels much faster than the inside end. If you are on the outside radius of a turn, the driver may think the load is heading your way slower than it really is.

    To learn more, watch the video Fields of Vision: Pedestrian Safety Around Forklifts, produced by WorkSafe British Columbia.

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