Forklift Safety Rules Of The Road

Make sure your operators are properly driving the lift trucks in your fleet. Check out these few simple forklift safety rules of the road and general tips to help keep your operators and your workplace productive and safe.

Forklifts play a vital role in keeping businesses moving – from transporting products to operating in heavy-duty outdoor applications. However, safety precautions must be taken whenever operating a forklift.

What are the keys to forklift safety?

Safety and health need to be top of mind when it comes to operating a forklift, and it’s vital to make sure your operators are safely utilizing the lift trucks in your fleet. Check out our forklift rules and tips below for simple ways to keep your operators and your workplace productive. 

The information provided below should be treated as “general” guidance.  Always refer to the forklift operator’s manual for specific safe operating instructions.


Certification. Forklift safety begins with qualified operators. Everyone who drives a lift truck needs to be licensed to operate the equipment. Qualified drivers will make better decisions which keeps them, and others, safe. Read how to get forklift certified.

Dress appropriately. Operating a forklift requires protective gear to maintain driver safety. Make sure all drivers are aware of the requirements and rules of the workplace, such as wearing protective clothing like hard hats, steel-toed shoes and a safety vest. Always check hands and feet for grease or oil before entering the forklift.

Use a checklist. Before beginning a shift, drivers should ensure that equipment is fully functional by running through a pre-shift checklist. Follow the link for more information on creating a daily forklift inspection checklist.


Use available safety features. When entering a forklift, operators should always make use of the available steps and hand grabs to properly situate themselves. Use the three-point method: grab the assist grip with your left hand, the hip restraint with your right hand and step up into the truck. Always avoid grabbing the steering wheel.

Once inside the forklift, the operator should situate themselves so all controls are comfortably within reach and make any necessary adjustments to the mirrors so they have a full range of view before starting the truck. Operators must always use the lift truck’s operator seat belt or restraint system.


Stay within the compartment. Drivers should always stay inside the operator compartment, and never reach into moving parts of the truck. 

Pay attention to surroundings. Operators need to pay close attention to all work site rules and guidelines, and be highly aware of all posted signs, particularly for speed, maximum permitted loads and clearance heights. Be aware of the height of the load, mast and overhead guard of the forklift when entering or exiting buildings. Forklift operators also need to pay close attention to avoid hazards like wet or uneven terrain and maintain a safe distance from loading docks while avoiding potentially unsafe supports like bridge plates. 

Move cautiously. Drivers should always pay close attention to posted speed limits and obey them. Stopping or changing direction should be done in slow, controlled movements. All turns should be taken slowly, particularly with heavy loads, to avoid tipping. Always drive up a ramp in a forward direction and down the ramp in reverse to avoid tipping. When traveling, keep the forks in a low position that provides adequate clearance over the surfaces you will travel. Operators should sound the horn and slow down when approaching pedestrian walkways, intersections, blind corners, door and ramp openings, other vehicles and when backing up. 

Manage the load correctly. Operators should ensure that each load is stable and secure, with the load tilted back against the forks before moving. When necessary, operators should use securing measures such as straps or ropes. Drivers need to be aware of their lift truck’s capacity to ensure that they never overload it, which may tip the truck over or cause the operator to lose control.

Keep visibility top of mind. Drivers should take steps to ensure a clear view of their path of travel when operating the forklift, which in some cases may mean driving in reverse. When positioning a load, it’s vital that the operator can clearly see where the load is being placed. If at any time visibility is compromised, drivers should stop driving until visibility has improved.

Lift as specified. Use forklifts only as specified. If an operator is going to use the lift truck to lift anything other than a load, such as a person, they need to use approved equipment such as a work platform and cage.

Keep others clear of the mast. When the mast is up operators must make certain that no one walks under the mast or stands near the truck. It’s also extremely important that all hands and feet are kept clear of the cross members of the mast to avoid injury when the mast is in motion. 

Refuel and recharge smartly. When a forklift is recharging or refueling, make sure that the forklift is turned off and in the designated recharging or refueling location where no open flames or sparks are permitted. 


Stick to the program. Every facility should have a designated area where forklifts are parked when not in use. Do not deviate from this program. Forks should be fully lowered, the forklift should be turned off and the parking brake should be applied. 



The most common cause of forklift accidents is inadequate forklift training. According to OSHA, 25% of forklift accidents occur due to operator errors that could have been prevented with proper training.


According to OSHA, forklift accidents are responsible for 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries each year. In 2015, 96 people were killed in forklift accidents.


Under certain circumstances and distances, a forklift can be legally driven on a public road. To drive a forklift on a road legally, the forklift and operator must comply with state insurance, licensing, and registration requirements.


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