Five Tips For Forklift Safety

Forklifts, also called lift trucks, reach trucks, or counterbalance trucks are essential to many different industries and businesses. From retail to construction, forklifts are one of the most common machines to find in the workplace. Just because they are common in the workplace does not mean they are simple machines to operate. Forklift safety is important as the dangers posed by negligent or poor operation of a lift truck can harm not just the operator but those who are nearby, from co-workers to pedestrians depending on where the forklift is being used. In addition to complying by OHSA standards, here are five things to keep in mind when considering forklift safety:

1. Who is legally allowed to operate a forklift?

The age to become a certified and trained forklift operator is 17 years old with the permission from parents, or 18 without parental permission. A driver’s license is irrelevant for becoming a forklift operator. There are different styles of forklifts (counterbalance forklifts, reach trucks, telescopic forklifts) which require separate training programs to ensure operator competency. This is because they operate differently and have different load handling capabilities to consider. Certificates must be renewed every three years to remain valid. It is up to the employer to track which operators and maintenance personnel are properly trained, certified and fully competent in forklift operation to ensure safety for all employees. Chief Prevention Officer inspectors will ensure employers, operators, and equipment maintenance are all following best practices and remain compliant with occupational health and safety legislation.

2. How to ensure a safe work environment around forklifts

There are many dangers that can be minimized by organizing the work and workspace properly. By nature of the jobs forklifts are built for, risk will always be present. By having effective traffic control for employees and pedestrians around the work area, competent signallers to assist the operators, working warning lights and alarms, speed limits, and adequate space around the work area among other safeguards will minimize the potential exposure to risk.

3. Proper education for all workers

The vast majority of accidents occur from negligence due to poor training for operators and supervisors alike. The possibility for violating simple operating procedures can be reduced by having educated staff to keep operators and supervisors accountable and avoid accidents. All employees should be on the lookout for violations including but not limited to:

  • No loads passing over any worker
  • Securing loads at risk of tipping, rolling or falling
  • No load exceeding the maximum weight limit of the machine
  • An operator is at the controls when forks are raised
  • Loads are carried close to the ground at all times when possible

4. Forklifts and trucks used meet their unique safety requirements

Forklifts come in many styles and depending on which you are working around, there might be different regulations to keep in mind. For example: if you are working with a propane powered forklift, there are specific regulations you must follow for storage. Additionally, refilling and handling of fuel tanks must be done by qualified workers. When using propane or another fuel burning forklift, ensure there is proper ventilation in the work area as well as any flammable or combustible hazards are removed. Each will also have their own reach, load and terrain limitations which should never be exceeded.

5. Who can perform maintenance?

There are minimum qualifications that the Chief Prevention Officer deems necessary for an employee to perform maintenance on a forklift or powered lift truck. Typically, the qualifications to perform maintenance work can be achieved with five years experience of servicing forklifts through in-school learning and on-the-job experience through an apprenticeship program. These requirements include:

  • Extensive knowledge of the safety procedures and terminology associated with forklift operation
  • The ability to read and comprehend technical manuals, drawings, specifications, part lists and their applications
  • Knowledge of electrical circuits and their applied operations relative to the pumps, motors, batteries, valves and piping found in forklifts
  • Knowledge of how to conduct a comprehensive inspection of forklift components and integrity



The best way to ensure safety when working with or around forklifts and lift trucks is education on best practices, safe operation and knowledge of hazards. Our diverse team of certified health and safety professionals have taken great pride in their ability to deliver prompt, cost-effective and relevant workplace health and safety solutions. As a CPO approved, TSSA accredited, and WSIB approved provider, we look forward to discussing how ACT can help with your company’s safety requirements through training courses or our safety consulting service. Contact us today for more information on forklift training and recertification courses such as:

Counterbalance Forklift

Telescopic Forklift

Narrow Aisle Reach Truck – And more!

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