Four tips for proper forklift operation

Andre Marshall -
Safety First
- 30 May 2024 ( #1181 )
3 min read
Andre Marshall is a product manager with Doosan Bobcat Material Handling. In his role, Andre manages product development and lifecycle for Class 1-5 forklifts for the North American market.

Learning how to operate equipment properly is the first and most important step before starting any job.

This is especially true when it comes to operating forklifts as their set-up and functionalities can vary from machine to machine.

For example, there are seven basic types of forklift classifications based on fuel type, application and features.

Understanding the intricacies of the machine you plan to operate will allow you to be the most productive throughout your day, while also minimising risk of machine misuse or injury. 

In honor of National Forklift Safety Day in the United Kingdom and the United States on June 11 this year, consider these tips and best practices to improve performance and productivity on your material handling job site. 

1. Complete certified forklift training  

Every classification of forklifts operates differently. For example, the set-up and functionality of an electric pallet truck and stacker varies significantly from an internal combustion (IC) pneumatic tyre forklift.

For this reason, it’s important to complete the necessary training and certification process to operate the forklift required for your job site or warehouse. In fact, in the United States the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has rules around training for vehicle inspection and maintenance.

In many instances, dealers will provide opportunities to customers for training, certification and practice using the new machine. That way operators can familiarise themselves with the equipment they plan to use for their various material handling needs. 

2. Inspect your forklift daily 

Operators should complete a daily inspection by walking around and physically assessing the machine.

This daily routine can help identify items such as fluid leaks, tyre tread wear and overall machine condition.

These are some of the important considerations before starting the machine and getting to work.

By taking time at the beginning of your shift to evaluate your forklift, you can reduce the possibility of larger issues down the road.

It’s also important to follow routine maintenance schedules and check oil levels such as; brake fluid, engine, hydraulic and transmission oil levels and the overall condition of your forks.

Despite their design strength and being forged from strong materials forks can wear from normal daily usage. Make sure your forks can carry the load and are not worn, bent or twisted.

Finally, always use your seatbelt and test the mast and lift the forks to ensure they’re running smoothly. 

3. Understand forklift capacity and assess the physical space 

It’s critical to understand the capacity limits of your forklift.

Diligently following the machine’s rated lift specifications and not overloading the truck beyond its net residual capacity rating will minimise potential issues.

Additionally, operators should always pay careful attention to their environment and surroundings.

Are you inside a warehouse where water or other fluids may have leaked onto the floor? Are you outdoors and operating on rough terrain? Do you need to maneuver down a ramp or through debris?

Avoiding high traffic areas, being cognizant of uneven surfaces and using a travel speed that correlates with your environment are safety considerations to keep in mind.

4. Listen to warnings and embrace safety technology 

Coupling innovative technology with operators’ work ethic translates to amazing jobsite results.

Telematics can play an important role in keeping operators efficient and productive. For example, operators should always pay special attention to service indicators that give warnings about engines, brakes, overheating or fluid levels – much like you would in your personal vehicle.

Today’s latest forklift models can share critical information and operators should pay attention to whatever their machine is telling them. 

To sum up

Completing forklift training and certification, evaluating your machine, understanding your forklift load capacity limits and operating conditions and adhering to equipment warnings are actionable ways to keep safety top of mind.

By creating a workplace focused on continuous improvement, you can build a culture that values efficiency, productivity and allows operators to accomplish more.

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