Forklifts are a practical way to move and stack goods and materials, but they cause many workplace deaths and injuries every year. It’s important to understand how to operate forklifts safely to prevent incidents.
A forklift is a small industrial vehicle with a power-operated, forked platform attached at the front. This platform can be raised and lowered and inserted under a load to lift or move it.
They can be powered by electric motors or by internal-combustion engines running on petrol, diesel, or LPG fuels. They’re either controlled by a licensed onboard operator or they’re pedestrian-operated forklifts (POFs) with no onboard operator.
What are the risks when using forklifts?
Even at low speeds, forklifts can cause serious injuries and fatalities. Pedestrians are at risk as well as the person using the forklift.
Forklifts are designed to be compact and easy to move and steer, but they can become unstable when carrying loads. A standard two-tonne forklift can weigh approximately five tonnes when fully loaded. With lower stability and greater maneuverability, forklifts are involved in many incidents, especially in uncontrolled traffic areas.
Examples of risks when using forklifts are:
- instability—tipping over is the biggest danger. It can happen quite easily—for example, when carrying an uneven load, or braking or accelerating down a slope
- speed and stopping distances—applying a forklift’s brakes inappropriately can cause the forklift to tip forward or lose its load
- sprains and strains—operating a forklift can cause sprains, strains, and other soft tissue injuries to the neck, back and arms. This can lead to long-term health problems.
How do I manage the risks?
It’s important to operate a forklift safely and create a safe work environment to minimise the risk of incidents. Simple measures that can make a big difference, are:
- observing speed limits and stop signs
- wearing correctly fitted seat belts
- slowing down and sounding the horn at intersections.
The risk of forklift-related injuries can also be reduced by making sure employees are well-trained, machinery is well-maintained, and a traffic management plan is in place.
Source: Forklifts | WorkSafe.qld.gov.au