Forklift Operation Safety

OSHA's Forklift Operator Training regulation applies to operators at LMU and requires training and evaluation of industrial truck (forklift) operators before assignment to operate a forklift. EHS has developed a forklift safety certification program and can provide forklift safety training. Please contact us to receive the official certification registration form and/or arrange for training.

Forklift operator training programs must include:

Safe Operation

The employer must ensure that every forklift operator is competent in the operation of the forklift as proven by successful completion of training.

Training Program Implementation

All operator training and evaluation must be conducted by individuals who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train and evaluate potential operators. Training includes a combination of formal instruction, demonstrations and practical exercises performed by the trainee, and an evaluation of the operators' performance. Practical exercises must be performed under the direct supervision of trainers where the practical training does not endanger the trainee or other employees.

Training Program Content

Trainees must be initially trained in the following forklift-related and workplace-related topics.


  • Operating instructions, warnings and precautions for type of vehicle.
  • Similarities and differences to automobiles.
  • Control and instrumentation location and use.
  • Engine or motor operation.
  • Steering and maneuvering.
  • Visibility.
  • Fork and attachment limitations and use.
  • Vehicle capacity.
  • Vehicle stability.
  • Vehicle inspection and maintenance.
  • Refueling or charging batteries.
  • Operating limitations.
  • Other operating instructions, precautions listed in the operators manual.


  • Surface conditions where forklift is used.
  • Load composition and stability.
  • Load stacking, un-stacking and transport.
  • Pedestrian traffic.
  • Narrow aisle and restricted area operation.
  • Operation in hazardous locations.
  • Ramp and sloped surface operation.
  • Unique or potentially hazardous conditions.
  • Operating the vehicle in closed environments.

Evaluation & Refresher Training

An evaluation of the performance of each forklift operator will be conducted every three years. Refresher training will be conducted so employees retain the ability to safely operate a forklift. Retraining should also be used if there is reason to believe that unsafe acts have been committed, an accident or near-miss occurs, an evaluation reveals a deficiency, assignment to a different type of forklift, or a workplace condition change that would effect forklift operations.


The employer must certify that every forklift operator has received appropriate training, has been evaluated and has demonstrated competency in performing the operator's duties. The name of the trainee, date of training and signature of the designated evaluator will be included in the certification.

Safe Forklift Operation Rules

  • Only authorized, trained personnel shall operate lift trucks.
  • Before start of shift, a visual inspection must be made to ensure that horn, lights, brakes, tires, gas supply, hydraulic lines, etc. are in safe working condition. Employees shall not operate an unsafe forklift at any time.
  • Fill fuel tanks out of doors while engine is off.
  • Do not exceed the safe load capacity of a forklift at any time. Do not counterweight a forklift to increase lifting capacity.
  • Operators shall drive with both hands on the steering wheel. Horseplay is prohibited. Do not drive with wet or greasy hands.
  • No person shall ride as a passenger on a forklift or on the load being carried.
  • A forklift will not be used to elevate a platform or pallet with persons on it, except work platforms especially designed for this purpose. Work platforms must have standard guard rails, and must be securely fastened to the forks.
  • No person shall stand or walk under elevated forks.
  • Operators should avoid making jerky starts, quick turns, or sudden stops. The operator will not use reverse as a brake.
  • Forklifts should be driven on the right side of the road or aisle-way.
  • Operators shall cross railroad tracks diagonally whenever possible.
  • Forklifts shall be operated at a safe speed with due regard for traffic and conditions. Maximum speed limits: inside buildings, 5 mph; outside buildings in work areas, 7 mph; on roads, 10 mph.
  • Slow down on wet and slippery surfaces and at cross aisles or locations where vision is obstructed.
  • Operators entering a building or nearing a blind corner shall make their approach at reduced speed. Sound horn and proceed carefully.
  • Standard arm signals will be used at all times.
  • Operators shall give pedestrians the right-of-way at all times.
  • Operators shall not drive toward any person who is in front of a fixed object or wall.
  • Operators shall not overtake and pass another forklift traveling in the same direction, at intersections, blind spots, or hazardous locations.
  • Operators should not put their fingers, arms, or legs between the uprights of the mast, or beyond the contour of the forklift.
  • When the forklift is not carrying a load, the operator shall travel with the forks as low as possible (maximum of 3 inches on paved surfaces). When carrying a load, it should be carried as low as possible (consistent with safe operation, 2 to 6 inches above the surface.).
  • Forks should always be placed under the load as far as possible. Do not lift a load with one fork.
  • No load should be moved unless it is absolutely safe and secure.
  • The operator's view should not be obstructed by the load. In the event of a high load, the forklift will be driven backward.
  • Operators shall look in the direction of travel.
  • The forks should not be operated while the forklift is traveling.
  • On a downgrade, the load shall be last, and the forks raised only enough to clear the surface.
  • On an upgrade, the load shall be first, and the forks raised only enough to clear the surface.
  • Use extra care when handling long lengths of bar stock, pipe, or other materials.
  • Avoid sharp or fast end-swing.
  • Compressed gas cylinders shall be moved only in special pallets designed for this purpose.
  • When unloading trucks or trailers, the brakes on the vehicle will be set (locked) and the wheels chocked.
  • Forklifts must be safely parked when not in use. The controls shall be neutralized, power shut off, brakes set, key removed, and the forks left in a down position flat on the surface, and not obstructing walkways or aisles.
  • A forklift shall not be left on an incline unless it is safely parked and the wheels blocked.