Forklift Hand Signals Can Improve Communications

Warehouses, work yards, manufacturing facilities and other locations where forklifts are used can be loud, busy places. This can provide challenges for forklift operators, especially when they are trying to maneuver their vehicles in tight spaces.

Drivers and their spotters often are wearing personal safety equipment such as safety glasses, ear plug or ear phones and hard hats which can make communication even more difficult. Even if your employees use personal radios to communicate, signals can often be unreliable, especially in areas of the facility where there is a lot of iron work or during severe weather events.

Having a spotter use hand signals to communicate with the operator is a great way to both increase safety and boost productivity. A spotter who is knowledgeable about the proper hand signals, along with a driver who understands them, allows for wordless communication regardless of the external conditions.

By educating your forklift operators, vehicle spotters and other staff on the universal forklift hand signals can improve the safety record of your facility and your business’s bottom line at the same time.

Here are the seven basic forklift hand signals that are commonly used in work environments around the globe:

Raise the Tines — With the forearm of your right hand vertical to the ground and the forefinger pointing up, move the hand in a small horizontal circle. It’s also the universal signal for “let’s go!”.

Lower the Tines — with the right arm extended out and parallel to the ground, point the palm down and lower the arm vertically repeatedly.

Tilt the Mast Back — With the forearm of the right arm vertical to the ground and the thumb extended, jerk the thumb over the right shoulder.

Tilt the Mast Forward — With the right arm extended and the thumb pointing down toward the ground, lower the arm vertically repeatedly.

Move the Tines in the Direction I’m Pointing — With the left or right arm extended out and parallel to the ground, with the palm down, point the forefinger in the direction of the desired movement.

Dog Everything — Clasps the hands in front of the body in front of the navel.

Stop — Extend both arms out from the body so they are parallel to the ground.

The forklift driver should only respond to signals given to him or her from the designated spotter. The only exception to this is the “Stop” signal, which the operator should respond to regardless of who is making the signal.

For a printable forklift hand signals poster, click on this link from the Forklift Safety website.

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