Forklift Safety: The Risky Reality

Powered industrial trucks, more commonly known as forklifts, are specialized vehicles used to lift and move various materials through worksites, distribution centers and storage areas. These vehicles are regulated under OSHA’s Powered Industrial Truck Standard. Working with forklifts is a tough job, and they’re a common source of OSHA citations and employee incidents, accidents and even deaths. Forklift Safety Day is coming up on June 11, which serves as a reminder that hazard reduction and proactive risk management are crucial to maintain safe operations.

Top Causes of Forklift Accidents

Between 8,000 and 9,000 worker injuries each year involve forklifts, with OSHA estimating that over 70% of these accidents are preventable. Unsafe operating procedures, lack of safety rule enforcement and insufficient training contribute to the majority of forklift accidents. The most common types of forklift accidents are:

  1. Forklift Rollovers
  2. Pedestrian Collisions
  3. Imbalanced/Falling Loads
  4. Personnel Falling
  5. Emissions Poisoning

Forklift Safety Tips

First and foremost, employers must ensure proper training and certification for all forklift operators as outlined by OSHA. Additionally, operators must pass a driving test for the specific forklift model they will be operating. It is the employer’s responsibility to familiarize employees with equipment and get them up to speed operational standards.

Below are some suggested ways to stay safe when working with or around forklifts:

  • Contribute to a safe work environment: Ask questions and let your supervisor know if you observe unsafe behavior. Enforce safe driving practices, such as obeying speed limits, stopping at stop signs, and slowing down, and sounding the horn at all intersections and when entering overhead doors.
  • Help maintain a safe forklift: Understand what pre-use inspection protocols you need to follow and when a powered industrial truck needs maintenance.
  • Complete comprehensive training: Do not operate a powered industrial truck that you don’t have current and up-to-date training and licensing for.
  • Participate in safe work practices: Take forklift driving seriously. Take the time to note your surroundings and be mindful of pedestrians in the area. Beware of blind spots on the equipment you’re operating as each type of forklift presents different challenges.
  • Follow a systematic traffic management process: Understand your employer’s rules for helping forklift operators see obstructions, coworkers, pedestrians, and other vehicles.

Remember the following dos and don’ts when operating a forklift:


  • Do wear a seatbelt at all times.
  • Maintain a safe distances from platform or ramp edges.
  • Be aware of other vehicles in your working area and maintain clear visibility.
  • Ensure you have proper clearance when raising, loading and driving.
  • Watch for pedestrians and follow the speed limit.
  • Use proper footing and the handhold when entering the lift.
  • Keep forklifts in good condition. Always inspect your forklift before each shift.


  • Don’t exceed the rated lifting capacity.
  • Don’t forget to ensure your load is stable and balanced.
  • Don’t raise or lower the load while in motion.
  • Don’t allow unauthorized personnel to ride on the vehicle.
  • Don’t engage in stunt driving or horseplay.
  • Don’t fill fuel tanks while the engine is running.
  • Don’t travel with empty forks elevated.

Reach out to an Advisor

Reach out to a SISCO Risk Consultant to learn more about forklift operations and creating a culture of safety in the workplace.