Using the Brakes on Your Forklift

Using your forklift breaks is imperative in all phases of material handling.

Using your forklift breaks is imperative in all phases of material handling.

Inexperienced forklift operators often struggle to recognize the sheer force of a forklift truck. In fact, it is easy for a fully-loaded forklift to have a destructive force in excess of 100,000 pounds. One way that this manifests is with using the brakes, and because forklifts are inherently unstable vehicles, it is easy for the vehicle to tip over. In this post, we review essential facts involved in using your forklift brakes, as well as what you can do to stay safe and prevent an injury when coming to a stop.

Generally, it takes .75 seconds for a forklift operator to become aware of a hazard, and another second for the body to respond. For this reason, you really want to leave 3 vehicle lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you. At a speed of 10 miles per hour this means that it will take 22 feet to come  to a complete stop. It is actually recommended that you go no faster than 8 miles per hour (3 miles per hour if there are pedestrians involved), and the observed speed limit should be posted at the work site.

Keep brakes in working condition

Making sure that your brakes are in optimal shape is also crucial. Inspecting brakes is an essential component of the pre-use inspection, and you also need to check and see that the horn and back-up alarm are in working condition (as a side note, you should also post signs reminding operators to use their horns.) It is also a good idea to clearly demarcate the traffic lanes for each forklift, as planning ahead will prevent accidents before they occur.

Forklifts can be dangerous, and you need to be mindful of how much room to leave between you and the next vehicle, as well as how fast you should be going. Ultimately, if you keep your speed down to a safe level and keep your brakes in good condition, you should be safe and free of accidents.

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