How to Drive a Forklift Safely: Your Go-To Guide

Driving a forklift isn’t a responsibility you should take lightly. Like driving a car, taking the proper safety precautions is everything.

Around 7,000 injuries occur each year from forklifts, with some accidents even ending in fatalities. If you want to avoid possible injuries to yourself or others around you, then it’s crucial to learn how to drive a forklift safely before you get behind the wheel.

Luckily, by following the right forklift safety tips, you can ensure a safer environment for forklift operation. We’ve rounded up the best tips to keep in mind when developing your forklift safety protocol.

Read on for our go-to guide on how to drive a forklift safely.

Stay Alert

When you’re learning how to drive a forklift, treat it just like driving a car. This means that you shouldn’t drive while tired, impaired, or otherwise distracted.

When you’re behind the wheel, always be on the lookout for obstacles, spills, and (most importantly) pedestrians. Even the smallest obstacle on the ground can cause the forklift to lose balance and possibly tip over.

Additionally, don’t ever text, read, talk on the phone, or attempt any other activities while you’re driving a forklift. Just like driving a car, driving a forklift requires your full and undivided attention.


Inspect Your Forklifts Regularly

One of the most important steps in how to drive a forklift safely happens before you start driving. Malfunctioning equipment can easily cause injury, so it’s important to inspect your equipment every day before you begin work.

Here are some common signs of malfunction to look out for during your inspections:

  • Seat belts jammed or broken
  • Tires have damage or excessive wear
  • Forks aren’t properly bent
  • Broken or loose wiring
  • Hoses aren’t secure
  • Damaged overhead guards
  • Dripping fluids

In addition to inspecting your equipment, you should also ensure that your work environment is clear, safe, and properly equipped. Double-check that the floor is clear of objects and that the fire extinguisher is present.

Teach All Operators How to Drive a Forklift Safely

Knowing the best forklift safety tips won’t do any good if you’re not passing the information down to your team. Before any individual drives a forklift for any reason, you should ensure they are up-to-date on your forklift safety protocol.

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In addition to requiring drivers to pass a forklift safety test, develop your own pointers and learning tools to ensure everyone knows how to drive a forklift safely and responsibly.

Place Warning Signs for Pedestrians

Many forklift accidents occur when unsuspecting pedestrians are struck. To prevent this, make sure you’re creating an environment where everyone knows when and where the forklifts will be driving.

If you’ve got a lot of pedestrians in your warehouse, you should consider using cones and warning signs to let them know when forklifts are driving around.

Use Your Horn

Whether you’re driving around a corner or through an area of pedestrians, it’s important to use your horn to announce your presence. That way, there won’t be any surprise collisions with people or other vehicles around you.

Lower Your Forks When You’re Not Using Them

A good “neutral” position for your fork when you’re not lifting stock is about 6 inches above the ground. Make sure it doesn’t scrape the floor while you’re driving (this indicates that the fork is too low).

If you’re wondering how to drive a forklift safely, this tip is crucial to keep in mind. A raised fork is capable of fatally wounding a pedestrian or knocking down stock and causing multiple injuries.

Don’t Overload Your Lift

Overloading your forklift can lead to serious or even fatal accidents. This is why it’s important to understand the capacity of your lift and never go beyond that.

Keep Your Load Low to the Ground

When you’re learning (or teaching a team) how to drive a forklift safely, maintaining the proper balance on your load is important. If your load is up too high, you risk tipping the vehicle and causing serious injury.

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Additionally, since forklifts are top-heavy, the load should be tilted against the backrest of the fork to prevent further chances of tipping or flipping the vehicle.

Keep Your Load Secured

Any loads you try to pick up while driving a forklift should be strapped, banded, or wrapped to stay secured. Be sure they are properly stacked so they don’t fall off the forklift.

Never Allow An Untrained Person to Drive a Forklift

Under no circumstances should anyone be driving a forklift unless they’ve been properly trained and authorized to do so. Even if you’re short-staffed, it’s important to keep this safety tip in mind.

Be Sure You’re Dressed Properly

Everyone who learns how to drive a forklift should make sure they’re always wearing the proper PPE and high-visibility safety gear before getting behind the wheel. 

Also, be sure you’re wearing tight-fitting clothes that won’t get caught anywhere. Plus, hands and feet should be clean and dry to avoid possibly slipping while driving.

Drive Slow, Drive Safe

When you’re learning how to drive a forklift safely, remember that it’s safer to keep your lift moving slow. Driving too fast gives you less time to react to people and obstacles around you, so it could easily lead to an accident.

In addition to that, you should avoid sudden maneuvers such as whipping around corners, backing up to fast, or lifting the fork too quickly.

No Horseplay- Ever

Learning how to drive a forklift can be fun, but safety should always be your top priority. Accidents have occurred when drivers play around, so don’t do it. If you observe any unsafe behavior, report it.

Forklift Safety Begins with You

As a forklift driver, the safety of yourself and those around you is in your hands. It’s important to take care and pride in this responsibility. Now that you know how to drive a forklift safely, start applying these tips today!

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