September 16, 2014

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Forklift truck safety: simple steps to change behaviour

By Phil Chambers BSc, CMIOSH Strategic Safety Systems

Too often, one reads of accidents where a forklift truck is involved. Typically, these result in major injury or death.

The readers of SHP Online should already be aware that the key steps to preventing forklift truck accidents are:

  • Pedestrians and vehicles should be kept separate, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Vehicles must be properly maintained and driven only by trained and authorised drivers.
  • Areas where visibility is poor, say because of curtains in doorways, should be improved.
  • People must be well clear of all lifting and lowering activities.

So if we already know this, how do we apply this practically to maintain and improve our workplace?

Physical barriers

forklift truck safety – guard rail best practice

A good example of how to control walkways in forklift traffic areas

The best form of separation of vehicles and pedestrians is a physical barrier, rather than painted floor markings. But the barrier must end at some point. The photograph below shows an excellent example of how this was tackled properly with one company.

Instead of the barrier ending with direct access to the vehicle route, there is a gate that opens inwards. This forces a pedestrian to stop. In addition, there is signage on both the gate and the floor. After a while, people will not notice signs, but the action of opening the gate remains.

Where the doorway is in an opaque wall, ideally there should be a barrier on the other side to make you change direction before you cross a vehicle route. Where this is impractical, then the door should open inwards. If this door is a fire exit, then this is contrary to good fire escape practice, but one could easily argue that this is still preferable.


Whilst we can train forklift truck drivers, pedestrians are not so easy to train. In many cases, people fail to realise just how poor the visibility is from a forklift truck, or how critical it is to gain eye contact with the driver.

You might like to consider producing your own posters to help get across the message of forklift truck safety. These days digital photographs make it easy to include pictures of your own workplace, and such posters are far more effective than those stating general issues such as “Fingers don’t grow on trees”. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Show the view from the driver’s position, taken in a recognisable position in your workplace. You might like to have two pictures, one where a person is hidden by the mast or load, and another one where the person can be seen.
  • Show the view looking into the driver’s eyes. Again, use a recognisable position and a recognisable driver, so people can associate it with their own workplace. Add text such as “Always make eye contact with the driver so he knows where you are.”
  • Show a lifting/lowering operation with someone standing within range. Add text such as “If it falls, the load accelerates at 9.8 m/s2. You can’t accelerate at this rate to get out of the way, so keep clear instead.”

This is a very short overview of a few steps to improve forklift truck safety. It is not intended to be comprehensive and there is an entire conference on this later this month. But implementing these steps is a start in improving safety in this area.

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7 years ago

To avoid any unauthorized driver of driving the forklift the best is to install a keypad with PIN code; I believe that Rocla Finland has this feature on their forklifts.

Peter Rimmer
Peter Rimmer
7 years ago

They should watch “Napo in… Safe moves” –

manminder chana
manminder chana
7 years ago

There is TRAKA key control system available to stop unautherised drivers using equipment.

7 years ago

The Best way of managing Forklift safety is to include it in an overall site Traffic Management Plan. The plan should minimize the risks involving the movements on all mobile equipment across a work site using a standardized approach and be part of the overarching site safety system. Ultimately every endeavor should be made to eliminate Pedestrians from Mobile Equipment operating areas and Mobile Equipment from Pedestrian areas. Excellent guidance material can be found in the following links The author specializes in designing and facilitating Traffic Management Plans for worksites. Feel free to contact me if you require… Read more »

5 years ago

Physical Barriers are a good idea. I wonder why it’s not implemented in our work site. Though there has been no accidents so far, I hope it remains that way, it will always better to have them and invest in safety.