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10 Forklift Safety Rules

03 February, 2023


OSHA estimates that 110,000 forklift accidents take place every year at U.S. jobsites. For all their benefits to the modern workplace, forklifts bring with them numerous hazards.

Stay Safe With These Forklift Safety Tips

This infographic looks at the rules and regulations concerning forklift safety, lays out important statistics, and provides tips for eliminating forklift hazards.



The following is a transcript of the 10 Rules for Forklift Safety Infographic:

10 Rules for Forklift Safety

For all their benefits, forklifts and powered industrial trucks bring with them numerous hazards that endanger both pedestrians and drivers. While they move heavy loads and increase efficiency, forklifts can also cause serious injuries when they are used unsafely. Here are 10 rules for how forklifts are used in the workplace, common hazards, and what OSHA has to say about forklift training.

1. Know the Stats

It's important to know the dangers that come with using forklifts on loading docks and in warehouses. Keep these statistics in mind while training workers and safely operating forklifts.

  • More than 1,000,000 forklifts are in operation throughout the United States
  • Forklift accidents cost businesses $135,000,000 every year
  • Roughly 70% of all accidents could have been avoided with proper training
  • OSHA estimates there are 110,000 forklift accidents every year
  • Roughly 20,000 workers are injured every year in forklift-related accidents
  • Forklift-related citations are routinely among OSHA's top 10 violations each year:
    • 2,860 violations in 2016 (sixth most-cited citation)
    • 2,760 violations in 2015 (sixth most-cited citation)
    • 3,147 violations in 2014 (fifth most-cited citation)
    • 3,340 violations in 2013 (sixth most-cited citation)
    • 1,993 violations in 2012 (seventh most-cited citation)
    • 3,432 violations in 2011 (seventh most-cited citation)
  • Forklift and powered truck fatalities
    • 2014 89
    • 2013 91
    • 2012 95
    • 2011 66
  • Overturned forklifts are the leading cause of deaths involving forklifts; they account for 22% of all forklift-related fatalities
  • Workers on foot struck by forklifts account for 20% of all forklift-related fatalities
  • Victims crushed by forklifts account for 16% of all fatalities and falls from forklifts account for 9% of all forklift fatalities
  • Between October 2015 and September 2016:
    • 1,619 federal inspections led to 2,349 forklift-related citations, totaling $4,266,235 in penalties
    • Of that total
      • 756 federal inspections led to 1,076 forklift-related citations in the manufacturing industry, totaling $1,640,164 in penalties
      • 212 federal inspections led to 332 forklift-related citations in the wholesale trade industry, totaling $566,827 in penalties
      • 175 federal inspections led to 219 forklift-related citations in the construction industry, totaling $326,605 in penalties
      • 188 federal inspections led to 292 forklift-related citations in the transportation and warehousing industry, totaling $943,617 in penalties
      • 118 federal inspections led to 169 forklift-related citations in the retail trade industry, totaling $350,548 in penalties

2. Know the Classes

These are classifications of six commonly-used types of forklifts, as recognized by OSHA, along with different types of trucks unique to each class.

  • Electric Motor Rider Trucks (such as rider-type counterbalanced forklifts and sit-down, three-wheel electric trucks)
  • Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks (such as high lift straddle trucks and platform side loaders)
  • Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks (such as low lift pallet trucks and high lift straddle trucks)
  • Internal Combustion Engine Trucks with Solid/Cushion Tires (such as counterbalanced fork trucks with cushion tires)
  • Internal Combustion Engine Trucks with Pneumatic Tires (such as counterbalanced fork trucks with pneumatic tires)
  • Electrical and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors (such as sit-down riders)
  • Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks (such as vertical mast type forklifts, variable reach type forklifts, and truck trailer mounted)

3. Know the Common Forklift Hazards

Here's a quick look at a few common hazards associated with forklifts.

  • Unsecured loads may fall, crushing pedestrians or drivers.
  • Forklifts may tip over, due to excessive speed or imbalanced loads
  • Workers may fall if they stand on the forks
  • Drivers may not see pedestrians, leading to collisions and fatal accidents
  • Improper or missing floor marking may lead to accidents between forklifts and pedestrians

4. Know the Requirements

Before any employee takes control of a forklift, ensure they're trained in accordance with OSHA requirements. 29 CFR 1910.178, OSHA's standard on powered industrial trucks, requires the following:

  • Employers must have a training program that incorporates general principles of safe operation, the types of vehicle(s) used, any hazards created by using forklifts and powered industrial trucks, and OSHA's general safety requirements.
  • Trained forklift operators must know how to do the job safely, as demonstrated in a workplace evaluation.
  • Employers must provide formal and practical training. This may include using some combination of lecture, video, software training, written material, demonstrations, and practical exercise.
  • Employers must certify that operators have received all necessary training and evaluate each operator at least once every three years.
  • Employers must evaluate the operator's performance and deem the employee competent to operate a powered industrial truck prior to operating the truck.

5. Know What to Watch For

Employees and employers should work together to ensure a forklift is safe to use before getting behind the wheel. Follow these steps before using a forklift.

  • Perform a daily inspection of all forklifts in use
  • Examine the tires and oil levels
  • Check for water, oil, or radiator leaks
  • Ensure forks are straight and not cracked
  • Test brakes, lights, the horn, and the steering wheel
  • Look for obstructions, uneven surfaces, overhead obstacles, and other potential hazards

6. Stay Safe While Using A Forklift

Workers should do the following while behind the wheel to protect themselves and coworkers:

  • Make sure the load is balanced and fully secure to prevent a forklift from tipping over
  • Ensure both forks are as far under the load as possible before lifting
  • Drive with the load as low as safely possible
  • Pay attention to posted speed limits and warning signs
  • Always look in the direction you're traveling; if a load blocks the view ahead, travel in reverse
  • Steer clear of areas where forklifts are prohibited or restricted
  • Keep an eye out for signs, floor marking, and other warnings for pedestrians and forklifts
  • Use the horn at intersections and in areas where pedestrians may be present

Facilities of any size should have clear forklift safety rules.

7. Keep An Eye Out Around Your Facility

Even if you're not operating a forklift, you can take steps to keep workers safe. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Post forklift safety signs, aisle markers, and forklift procedure labels-using premade signs, custom labels, or a combination of the two
  • Implement a floor marking system in your facility
  • Ensure safety signs are at all intersections where pedestrians and vehicles intersect
  • Use steering wheel covers and padlocks when necessary
  • Use proper lockout/tagout equipment to prevent forklifts from inadvertently starting up

Request your free Warehouse Safety Hazards & Solutions Guide from Graphic Products for more on identifying and mitigating hazards in your facility.

8. Implement a Floor Marking System to Keep Workers Safe

OSHA maintains basic rules and regulations for effective floor marking. 29 CFR 1910.22(b)(2), part of the agency's standard for walking and working surfaces, states: "Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked." The broader standard sets no guideline for floor marking colors unless floor marking is used for preventing physical injuries.

That said, 29 CFR 1910.144-the agency's standard for outlining safety color codes-mentions that red and yellow are designated safety color codes for marking physical hazards.

  • Red is for fire-related hazards (including the identification of fire protection equipment and containers of flammable liquids), as well as emergency switches, bars, and buttons on hazardous machines.
  • Yellow designates caution and is used to mark physical hazards (including stumbling, falling, and "caught in between").

Improve visual communication with Graphic Products' floor marking resource center. Access our floor marking color codes infographic, Best Practice Guide to Floor Marking, in-depth articles, helpful videos, on-demand webinar, and more: Improve Your Floor Marking System

9. Develop a Visual Communication System

Here are a few tips for successful visual communication, which can alert operators and pedestrians to hazards caused by forklifts:

  • Use "Stop" signs, speed limit signs, and other traffic control devices
  • Implement wayfinding to improve the flow of traffic, keep pedestrians away from forklift paths, and direct forklifts along safe routes
  • Point out loading docks, shelves for inventory, and other important places within a warehouse
  • Post signs at junctions to warn pedestrians and forklift operators to stop and look for hazards
  • Display checklists and inspection requirements where forklifts are stored

10. Implement Solutions for Forklift Safety

Many of the hazards posed by forklifts can be mitigated with custom signage and clear visual communication. DuraLabel industrial printers by Graphic Products help you create custom signs on demand, including speed limit signs, printed floor marking tape, maintenance labels, safety reminders, and more. Visit Industrial Label Printers for more information.