Forklift Safety Guide
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Types of Forklifts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
How a forklift works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Using a forklift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Hazardous Locations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Maintenance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
This book is not designed to substitute for operator training in the operation of
specific forklifts in a specific workplace as required by OSHA regulations. Special
thanks to the state of Washington for the materials they provided in the creation
of this workbook.
Whenever you see this symbol in the book, it means that failure to follow
the instructions can result in serious injury or death.
OSHA standard that regulate forklifts
Safety rules developed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
regulate the safe use of forklifts and other "powered industrial trucks" in the
workplace can be found in 29 CFR 1910.178. This standard is available at the
OSHA web site: http://www.osha.gov
Forklift Safety 11/03 Page 2
Forklift Safety Guide
A forklift is a powerful tool that allows
one person to precisely lift and place
large heavy loads with little effort.
Using a tool such as a forklift, cart or
hand truck instead of lifting and
carrying items by hand can reduce the
risk that you will suffer a back injury.
However, there is great risk of injury or
death when a forklift operator:
has not been trained in the principles of physics that allows it to lift heavy
is not familiar with how a particular forklift operates,
operates the forklift carelessly, or
uses a forklift that is not safe due to malfunctioning or missing parts.
Every year nearly 100 workers are killed and 20,000 are seriously injured in
forklift mishaps. According to the National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities
(NTOF) Surveillance System 1530 workers field from forklift related accidents
between 1980 and 2001. At least 22% of these deaths were caused by forklift
overturns and another 20% to workers on foot being struck by the forklift. With
well over one million forklifts in operation today, emphasis must be placed on
both worker and pedestrian safety.
Forklift Safety 11/03 Page 3
Types of Forklifts
A forklift is a type of "powered industrial truck" covered by OSHA standards. Like
other powered industrial trucks, its purpose is to move carry, push, pull, and lift a
material load then stack it or place it in a storage rack (tier). Forklifts come in
many sizes and capacities. They can be powered by batteries, propane, gasoline
or diesel fuel. Some are designed to be used in a hazardous location or
atmosphere where an ordinary forklift might cause a fire or explosion.
Powered industrial trucks are classified into seven types based on their
characteristics. On the next pages are some illustrations of common forklifts that
fit these classes.
q Class 1 - Electric Motor, Rider, Counter-Balanced Trucks (Solid &
q Class 2 - Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks (Solid Tires)
q Class 3 - Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks (Solid Tires)
q Class 4 - Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid Tires)
q Class 5 - Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)
q Class 6 - Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors (Solid &
Pneumatic Tires). There are no forklifts in this class.
q Class 7 - Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)
Stand Up Rider: Forklift has a counterbalance Stand Up Rider Narrow Aisle: The forklift has straddle
weight in the body. The rider stands inside the body legs on both sides of the forks to provide stability in the
of the forklift. absence of a counterweight in the body.
Example of: Example of: Class 2 Electric Narrow Aisle Truck
Class 1 Electric Rider Counterbalanced Truck
Forklift Safety 11/03 Page 4
Stand Up Reach Rider Narrow Aisle: Forks Stand Up Rider Order Picker: The operator stands
extend in and out as well up, down, and tilt. on a platform in front and along with the controls is
transported to the elevated location.
Example of: Class 2 Electric Narrow Aisle Truck Example of: Class 2 Electric Narrow Aisle Truck
Sit Down Rider: The forklift has a counterbalance Motorized Hand Pallet Jack: A low lift (ground
in the rear. level) unit has forks or a platform. Some models
allow the operator to stand on the back. Others, like
Example of: this one are walked.
Class 1 Truck if electric powered.
Class 4 Truck if internal combustion (gas, diesel A high lift version has a mast and straddle legs.
or LP gas) powered with solid
tires. Example of:
Class 5 Truck if internal combustion powered Class 3 Electric Motor Hand/Rider Truck
with pneumatic tires.
Forklift Safety 11/03 Page 5
Forklift Operators Must Be Trained
An untrained operator of a forklift can be as dangerous as an unlicensed
operator of a motor vehicle.
OSHA standards require that the employer ensure that a forklift operator is
competent to operate the forklift he or she is assigned to use. The employer must
document operator training and an evaluation of the operator's performance
while using the forklift.
Refresher training must be given if the operator is observed operating the truck in
an unsafe manner, is involved in an accident, near miss, or is assigned a
different type of truck.
Forklift operators must be trained
in the operating instructions,
warnings and precautions for the
types of forklifts they will be
authorized to use.
Forklift Safety 11/03 Page 8
How a Forklift Works
Driving a forklift is different than driving a car
In a car or truck the front wheels steer the vehicle. A
forklift has the steering wheels in the rear. The rear end
of the forklift swings in a circle around the front wheels
that support most of the load. The operator must check
that there is room for the rear end to swing when making
turns. This clearance can be maintained in your
workplace by permanently marking aisles with painted
lines or arranging storage racks in a way that creates
obvious aisles for travel. However, these marked aisles
will only be effective if you keep them clear of stored Mark aisles to help keep
adequate clearance for
materials, which can gradually encroach as space is forklifts.
A forklift is not as responsive as a car when turning
the steering wheel. Rear steering makes it difficult to
stop a forklift quickly or swerve and still maintain
control. It is important, then not to drive a forklift fast
or round corners quickly.
Driving with the load downhill can result in loss of A forklift is different from a
the load and control of the forklift. car.
It's much heavier than a
car. The average car
weighs about 3,000
pounds; an average
forklift weighs 9,000
A forklift is easier to tip
over on a turn whether it
is loaded or not.
A forklift is not as
responsive as a car as it
is turned by moving the
A forklift can be driven
backwards or forwards
Keep the load uphill to maintain equally well.
control of the forklift.
If you drive a forklift on an incline, you must keep the load on the uphill side.
Otherwise, you may have no weight on the wheels that steer and can lose
control! The load could also fall off or cause the forklift to tip.
Forklift Safety 11/03 Page 9
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