Semitrucks, cranes and other heavy machinery come with obvious dangers. Their sheer size and power provide a constant reminder of their risks.

By contrast, it’s easy to forget that the humble forklift can be incredibly dangerous. In fact, every year, nearly 100,000 workers nationwide suffer injuries from forklift accidents.

Because forklifts are so prevalent across a broad range of industries, it’s important for operators – as well as those who work in close vicinity to forklifts – to stay safe by following these tips.

1. Always buckle up

The number one mistake workers make when driving a forklift is the same mistake people make when driving a car: not wearing a seat belt. The safest place you could be around a forklift is strapped into the driver’s seat, so why wouldn’t you buckle up?

Federal safety regulations require operators to wear seat belts when they’re provided. That seat belt could save your life if something goes wrong.

2. For trained operators only

Just because you can drive a car doesn’t mean you can drive a forklift. Workers must go through specialized training before they can operate forklifts and other powered industrial trucks. This training focuses on important issues such as:

  • How to safely operate the vehicle
  • How to balance loads
  • How to stay within the load capacity
  • How to work around blind spots and other limitations

Trainings are site-specific, meaning they must occur under the same conditions – and using the same type of vehicle – that workers will experience in their jobs.

If you know you’re not trained to operate a specific vehicle in a specific setting, don’t take the chance.

3. Maintenance is key

Forklift owners and operators must take steps to ensure that their equipment is in safe working condition. This means regularly inspecting key components such as:

  • Brakes
  • Clutch
  • Steering
  • Batteries
  • Tires
  • Fuel systems
  • Hydraulic systems

Proper maintenance is essential for avoiding equipment failures that could lead to dangerous conditions.

As you can see, operating a forklift is not something to take lightly. The first step in ensuring safety is to understand the risks involved.