Load Handling And Composition On A Forklift – Part II: Safe Load Capacity

Last time we discussed how the weight, size and position of a load are essential questions when loading a forklift.

In this article, we will cover the issue of safe load capacity of a forklift and how important it is in the safe operation of a lift.

There are three things to consider when pondering safe load capacity. They include:

• How to estimate a safe load capacity when you have an over-sized load.
• How to compensate when a stated load center exceeds the weight of the load.
• Consulting the forklift manufacturer’s instructions when handling large or unusually configured loads.

OSHA suggests that you use a field calculator to determine the reduced lift capacity if manufacturer’s instructions are not available. It should be noted that this method would not create an exact load reduction figure. However, it will present a guideline.

Field Calculating Safe Load Capacity

Figure 4 (Graphic courtesy of OSHA)

In order to explain how to properly calculate a safe load capacity for a forklift in the field, there is one thing that needs to be established for this scenario. We are going to assume that a forklift truck has a 5,000-pound capacity at a 24-inch load center and we need to handle a load in which the center is 28-inches from the front face of the forks in the horizontal direction.

First, you need to understand that the actual load center distance of 28-inches exceeds the standard load center distance of 24-inches on which the 5,000-pound capacity is based. So a safe load capacity is actually less than 5,000-pounds.

Second, estimate the forklift’s safe load capacity at a 28-inch load center. Take the rated load center and divide it by the actual load center and then multiply this number by the stated capacity to get the new approximate safe load capacity.

___________ X 5,000-lbs. = 4,285-lbs


The number (4,285-lbs) is the approximate safe load capacity.

Using the example set down in figure 4 (shown above), take the stated standard load center of 24-inches and divide it by the actual load center of 36-inches, then multiply the number by the stated capacity of 4,000-lbs to get the new approximate safe load capacity:

___________ X 4,000-lbs. = 2,666-lbs.


Again, the number is an approximate safe load capacity.

(Source: Osha)

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