5 Ways You Can Reduce the Risk of Forklift Accidents

Updated: May 27, 2016

Operator helping another operator that was in a forklift accident

National Forklift Safety Day – June 14th 2016
Sponsored by the Industrial Truck Association, National Forklift Safety Day highlights the importance of safe forklift operation and operator training. The National Safety Council states that forklifts, the most common type of powered industrial truck, are involved in 70% of industrial accidents.

In 2014, 43 people died in forklift related fatalities in the US. The top five causes of forklift related fatalities were:

  • Pedestrians being struck by a forklift
  • Operator fatalities as a result of a forklift roll over or tip over
  • People being crushed between a forklift and an object or surface
  • Technicians being crushed while servicing or maintaining a forklift
  • People being struck by a falling forklift load

In most cases forklift related accidents can be prevented with operator training and established safety procedures in your facility. OSHA believes that effective operator training can reduce the risk of accidents by 25-30%, but more than that it can also help to increase operator performance by up to 61%.


1. Pre-Operational Inspections and Functional Checks:
Ensuring that the forklift you are operating is in good running order before you get behind the wheel is the first step in preventing accidents. Taking a few minutes to perform a visual and operational inspection of your forklift can help to identify issues before they become a serious safety concern.

2. Pedestrian Safety Systems:
Setting up a pedestrian safety system at your facility can go a long way to protect against forklift/pedestrian accidents. Whether it is mirrors at blind corners or dedicated pedestrian safety systems like BlueSpot Safety lights or Zone Safe Systems, operators and pedestrians need to be extra cautious when working in the same spaces.

3. Load Capacities and Securement:
Each forklift’s load capacity is significantly affected by lift height. High masted forklifts will have a higher lift capacity at lower heights so operators must be careful and attentive when lifting loads as stability is affected at height. It’s also critical that loads are secured and carefully centered on the forks to ensure the weight is distributed properly so that balance is maintained.

4. Speed Management:
Traveling too fast in the wrong conditions is one of the main causes of accidents. Adjusting your speed depending on the weather and driving conditions will go a long way to protect your equipment and employees. Drivers traveling with loads should ensure the forks are not raised more than 4 inches off the ground and that they slow down when taking sharp corners. For forklifts managing loads in excess of 10,000 lbs., forks should be raised as high as 8” off the ground.

5. Roll Over Tips:
In the event your forklift does tip over there are four things you can do to keep yourself safe.

Buckle up. No one wants to be in a forklift accident, but being prepared is better than getting hurt.

Stay in your seat and do not attempt to jump off. If you attempt to jump off there is a good chance that you could be pinned under the forklift.

Hold onto the steering wheel and brace yourself for impact.

Keep your body inside the operator compartment and lean in the opposite direction of the overturn.