Knowing Limitations And Functionality Of Forklift Leads To Safer Operation

Perhaps more than any other vehicle, a forklift has certain characteristics that make it a dangerous machine to use if not operated safely.

These characteristics include:

• Propensity to become unsteady
• Carrying loads high off the ground
• Steered with rear wheels and powered with front
• Shift in center of gravity due to motion of load
• Decrease of longitudinal stability when load is high or extended out from the Vehicle.

Moreover, the conditions of the warehouse in which these vehicles are used may increase the danger. Issues within a warehouse environment that could cause problems include:

• Rough, uneven, or sloped floors
• Loosely packed loads
• Hazardous environmental conditions
• Narrow aisles
• Blind spots
• Pedestrian traffic working in close proximity with forklifts and other vehicles.

Forklift operators can prevent accidents.
(Courtesy: Ahmed Sabry at

A sudden depression or bump in the surface can cause a traveling forklift to lose its load causing injury to anyone in its path. A blind spot at an intersection that a forklift operator may encounter could result in injury to a pedestrian.

All sorts of accidents can occur. So a number of safety accessories are available that will minimize or even eliminate these occurrences.

There are guardrails to separate areas of a warehouse from routes in which forklifts travel. There are wide-angle mirrors placed in strategic locations that permit a forklift driver or a pedestrian to see oncoming traffic. There are motion detection systems that open and close safety gates at pedestrian crosswalks or flash warning lights that alert a forklift driver to oncoming pedestrian or vehicle traffic. This permits the driver to make maneuvers to avoid accidents.

Safety accessories are definitely helpful. However, it takes an alert driver who operates his lift at controllable speeds, knows how to avoid poor loading problems, and who does not carry unauthorized passengers on his lift who can best prevent accidents.

Safety issues can also occur due to poor maintenance of a forklift. If routine maintenance is not performed, a gasoline-powered forklift could emit more carbon monoxide exhaust. Bad brakes or a ruptured hydraulic line can make a lift dangerous to operate.

So it is also imperative for the forklift driver to understand how to maintain his machine so possible problems can be avoided.

We all remember the television advertisement that features Smokey the Bear saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Forklift operators should take note that they can prevent accidents and other hazardous conditions as long as they drive their forklifts responsibly.

About Robert J