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Key health and safety tips for forklift drivers

These health and safety tips provide general information on ways to manage the most common hazards and risks in your industry. By following this guidance you will be going a long way to effectively managing health and safety in your workplace. However, every workplace is different and you must not take this information as being all that you need to do.

Carrying the load
Confined spaces
Driving and maintenance
Manual tasks
People and traffic management

Activities/instructions More information

  • Make your work and workplace safe by:
    • finding what is unsafe or unhealthy in your workplace
    • deciding what is highest risk and needs to be fixed first, and how to go about fixing it
    • taking action to fix the unsafe or unhealthy workplace problems
    • checking the problems are fixed and won’t happen again
    • having a site-specific health and safety induction
    • having specific training to do work safely
    • using safety gear.

    Remember, everyone is responsible for workplace health and safety.

Carrying the load
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure loads are within the rated load capacity of the forklift.
  • Carry loads as close to the ground as possible.
  • Operate the forklift with the load placed fully against the truck carriage or back rest. The mast should be tilted sufficiently backward to safeguard the load.
  • Use a forklift truck to raise a person only if the truck is designed for this purpose or there is an approved work platform securely attached.
  • Drive in reverse if vision is obscured by a bulky load (NB: never drive in reverse up a slope when carrying a load).
  • Make sure that the load leads when driving up gradients. On slopes, tilt the mast back enough to safeguard the load and raise the forks so they clear the ground.
Confined spaces
Activities/instructions More information

  • Use electric forklift trucks instead of fuel or LP gas-powered types where possible.
  • Fit a catalytic converter to fuel or LP gas powered type to catalytically oxidise carbon monoxide to the less toxic gas carbon dioxide.
Driving and maintenance
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure forklift operators hold a certificate of competency to operate a forklift, or are an authorised trainee.
  • Carry out inspections and maintenance frequently, and before each use of the forklift according to Australian Standards and manufacturers’ instructions. Keep records of inspections.
  • Make sure forklift is fit for the purposes it is used for, never using a forklift for things it wasn’t designed to do.
  • Do not use mobile phone when driving, loading and unloading.
  • Never park or leave the forklift in any doorway, entrance, emergency exit, etc.
  • Wear a seatbelt where one is provided.
  • Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
  • Stick to speed limits and make sure a safe stop can be made at any time. Avoid rapid acceleration, deceleration and quick turns.
  • Drive carefully on wet or slippery surfaces.
  • Reduce speed when making a turn. Take care that the tip of the fork (or load) or the rear side of the forklift truck does not touch a nearby person or object.
    Secure forklift from unauthorised operation, for example, remove the key when forklift not in use.
  • Climb carefully, do not jump from the cab.
  • Park the forklift with tynes lowered.
Activities/instructions More information

  • Observe the prescribed exclusion zones when working close to overhead power lines (note: requirements for exclusion zones vary with voltage – the higher the voltage the bigger the exclusion distance).
  • Contact the electrical supply authority whenever a forklift or any part of its load has to be within the exclusion zone for overhead power lines.
  • Use licensed electricians for all electrical work.
Manual tasks
Activities/instructions More information

  • Make sure everyone has received clear instructions and have been trained to perform the task.
  • For work involving hard physical effort:
    • organise work to reduce physical force needed
    • use mechanical assistance to change a forklift battery or LPG cylinder
  • For work involving awkward working positions:
    • only purchase or hire forklifts that have adjustable seats
    • work in a position that minimises the need to twist, slouch, or bend with arms in close to the body
    • have each forklift driver adjust the seat so that controls are within easy reach
    • get off the forklift, stretch and straighten up or exercise every hour or so.
  • For work that is highly repetitive and/or involves tasks of long duration:
    • change work tasks or get equipment to stop repetitive actions or long tasks
    • use rear vision mirrors to minimise the need for turning the neck frequently to see behind the forklift
    • avoid double handling by setting out warehouse traffic pathways according to most accessed loads and loading in order of delivery
    • build in breaks and a slower pace for tasks that are repetitive or done for long periods.
  • For work that involves vibration:
    • keep ground surfaces in good repair
    • use ergonomically designed seats that can be adjusted for each operator, and have vibration damping.
People and traffic management
Activities/instructions More information

  • Have a safe traffic management system where forklifts operate around other vehicles and/or pedestrians.
  • Separate pedestrians from forklifts, or minimise the time forklifts spend in areas of pedestrian use.
  • Stick to all speed limits.
  • Use zones for loading and unloading.
  • Wear high visibility clothing.
  • Make sure forklift is fitted with flashing lights and an audible reversing alarm that can be heard above other work noises.
  • Give way to pedestrians when driving.
  • Maintain a clear view ahead and behind (using a correctly adjusted rear view mirror) and give clear indication of intended movement.
  • Fit parabolic mirrors on blind corners in the workplace to avoid collisions with other machinery, vehicles or pedestrians.

Last updated 30 November 2011