A top priority for anyone managing forklift operations must be to uphold safety. But what does this look like
day-to-day? Busy sites mean there is a lot to oversee, and it can be diffcult to know where to begin –
particularly if you haven’t come from a background as a forklift operator. It’s vital that managers can spot
bad practice and rectify it before it leads to an accident.
Here are some of the most common examples to watch out for:
One of the main causes of serious workplace accidents and fatalities is being hit by a moving vehicle. Check
that operators carry out their all-round observations properly, every time, before they move their truck or
the load, to ensure that they are aware of pedestrians or obstructions.
Insecure loads, uneven weight distribution and overloading are all examples of so-called ‘shortcuts’ that can
lead to lost loads and tip overs, with serious consequences. As well as watching out for these, managers
should ensure that operators complete one maneuver at a time while carrying a load (i.e. turn, then lift; not
turn and lift).
Pedestrians and forklifts must always remain a safe distance apart, especially in areas where they cannot be
physically separated. Whether colleagues or visiting drivers, pedestrians should not be permitted to help with loading/unloading and should never try to steady a load. Putting robust, reinforced Safe Systems of Work in
place will help to maintain safe working distances. Communicate these systems to everyone who may need to
access an area where forklifts operate, however rarely this may be. This includes staff, contractors, visitors
and delivery drivers.
When operating a truck High loads can obscure the operators’ view of their surroundings, increasing the risk
of them colliding with other vehicles, pedestrians or racking. Make sure that operators are traveling with a
clear view, so that they can stay alert to any surrounding risks. If their view is obscured by the load and they
cannot travel in reverse, then they should use a banksman to guide them.
In the UK, the HSE is clear in its guidance: “Where restraining systems are fitted, they should be used.” Forklift operators may prefer to not wear seatbelts but the fact is they significantly reduce the consequences of an
accident. If the truck was to become unstable and tip over, a seatbelt stops the operator from being thrown
from the cab or trying to escape, which can lead to them being trapped under the truck. Adding seatbelts to
company policies makes their use mandatory on site and managers should reinforce this through regular
monitoring, refresher training, on-site signage and the like.
Managers should look out for cases where operators are using unsuitable equipment; for example, lifting
colleagues using makeshift cages, rather than purpose-built work platform attachments or MEWPs. Also
dangerous is using the right equipment but in ways it was not designed to be used, i.e. using lift trucks to push loads, rather than lift them. Ensure that operators have access to the correct equipment for the task and are properly trained to use it, to protect themselves and their colleagues.
Tight deadlines and high demand can influence some operators to compromise on safety in an attempt to save
time. But rushing comes at a high cost when it increases the risk of tip overs, collisions or lost loads.
Check that operators are aware of speed limits on site and that they understand the need to stick to them at
all times, regardless of any operational pressures.
Forklift operators can become complacent during mounting/dismounting, simply due to the frequency that this isdone every day, and may be tempted to jump from the cab. But this increases the risk of slips and falls, and
also adds additional distance between them and their cab, potentially putting them into the path of another
vehicle. Take a look at the three points of contact rule for the safest way to enter/exit a lift truck.
These are just a few examples of the risks which your managers must target to help protect your team and
your business. By regularly monitoring operations and making time for proper supervision, those overseeing
forklift use can guard against unsafe practice, proactively rectifying any bad habits day-to-day.
*as written by Stuart Taylor. Stuart Taylor is Managing Director of Mentor FLT Training Limited, the UK’s leading provider of training and associated services for all types of
materials handling equipment and workplace transport.
If you have a question on this or any topic related to safety with your forklift, give our resident expert, Dave Bennet, a call or fill out the request form.