Forklift Accidents – How To Avoid Them

forklift accidentsForklifts are essential tools in many industrial settings, but they can also pose risks if not operated safely. Understanding the most common forklift accidents is crucial for preventing injuries and maintaining a safe work environment. In this article, we will explore some of the most common forklift accidents and discuss preventive measures to mitigate these risks.

 #1 Lack Of Training

Proper forklift training is crucial before operating heavy machinery to ensure safety. It is essential for forklift drivers to have a comprehensive understanding of the safe operation and be familiar with the potential hazards associated with forklifts. Adequate training significantly reduces the risk of accidents caused by inadequate knowledge. In fact, OSHA mandates certification for forklift operators, emphasizing the importance of a well-established training program to prevent accidents and promote a safe working environment. OSHA estimates up to 70% of forklift accidents in the U.S. could be prevented with more focus on training and certification

Preventive Measures

Ensure operators receive comprehensive forklift training.

  • Regularly review and reinforce safe operating practices.
  • Conduct pre-operational inspections to identify any potential issues.
  • Maintain clear visibility by keeping the operator’s view unobstructed.
  • Follow load capacity guidelines to prevent tip-overs.
  • Implement proper pedestrian awareness and traffic control measures.
  • Utilize safety devices such as seat belts and horn signals.
  • Adhere to proper forklift maintenance schedules.
  • Establish designated forklift operating areas.
  • Encourage open communication and reporting of safety concerns.


Inspections are essential parts of forklift maintenance. Scheduling regular inspections increases safety by identifying potential damage before it causes accidents.

Preventive Measures

You can repair or replace parts following an inspection to ensure operator safety. Schedule preventive maintenance inspections to help you determine if you need to make repairs to prevent the following complications:

  • Steering malfunction
  • Brake malfunction
  • Mast assembly malfunction
  • Clutch or transmission malfunction
  • Shift linkage malfunction
  • Transmission or hydraulic system leaks
  • Obstructions or blind spots in driver views
  • Excessive emissions
  • Poor display and control layout
  • Inadequate or malfunctioning safety features

Hitting Or Running Over Pedestrians:

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), nearly 20 percent of forklift accidents involve pedestrians, with pedestrian-related incidents accounting for 36% of forklift-related deaths.

Preventive Measures

  • Provide comprehensive training for both forklift operators and pedestrians to promote awareness and safe interaction.
  • Clearly mark forklift zones with warning signs and floor tape.
  • Use blue lights and pedestrian red zone lights to alert pedestrians to the presence of a forklift.
  • Install sensors or alarms to notify both drivers and pedestrians of potential hazards.
  • Install reflective markings, lights, and mirrors on forklifts to improve visibility, particularly at blind spots. Use high-visibility vests or clothing for pedestrians to make them easily identifiable to forklift operators.
  • Enforce appropriate speed limits for forklifts in pedestrian areas. 
  • Keep the working area clear of obstructions and ensure there is sufficient space for the forklift to maneuver safely. Remove debris, loose objects, or any other potential hazards from the paths and designated storage areas.
  • Establish effective communication channels between forklift operators, pedestrians, and other employees working in the area. 
  • Implement a well-defined traffic management plan that includes one-way traffic flows, proper signage, and floor markings. Clearly indicate pedestrian crossings and ensure that forklift operators are aware of these designated areas.
  • Consider installing proximity warning systems or other advanced technologies that alert both forklift operators and pedestrians when they are in close proximity to each other. 

Knocking Off a Pallet, Tipping or Damaging Racking

Accidents related to pallets and racking can occur when lifting and placing loads, especially at higher levels or in restricted visibility areas.

Preventive Measures

  • Implement automatic fork levelers to maintain level forks and enhance stability during pallet handling.
  • Install mast-mounted cameras with operator compartment monitors to improve visibility and assist in precise load placement.
  • Ensure that forklift operators receive comprehensive training on safe operating procedures, load management, and maneuvering techniques. 
  • Understand the load capacity of the forklift and adhere to it strictly. 
  • Train operators on proper loading techniques to secure the load effectively. Ensure that loads are centered on the forks and stable to minimize the chances of them becoming dislodged or unbalanced during transport.
  • Conduct regular maintenance checks on forklifts to identify and address any mechanical issues promptly. Pay attention to components like brakes, tires, hydraulics, and steering systems to ensure they are in optimal working condition.
  • Encourage operators to maintain a controlled and steady speed while operating the forklift. Avoid sudden starts, stops, or sharp turns, which can destabilize the forklift and cause accidents.
  • Keep the working area clear of obstructions and ensure there is sufficient space for the forklift to maneuver safely. Remove debris, loose objects, or any other potential hazards from the paths and designated storage areas.

Falling From Forks or Platform

Avoidable personal falls from forklifts are unfortunately common, but with the right precautions, they can be prevented.

Preventive Measures

  • Take sufficient time for tasks and avoid rushing operations.
  • Utilize provided guardrails and safety features on the forklift.
  • If working at heights is necessary, provide appropriate fall protection equipment, such as safety harnesses and lanyards.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as helmets and harnesses.
  • If your forklift is equipped with a designated platform or cage, ensure that it is used appropriately and only for authorized tasks.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain the forklift, paying close attention to the condition of the platform or cage.
  • Adhere to established safety protocols and guidelines.
  • Secure loads properly to maintain stability.
  • Maintain clear visibility during operations.
  • Conduct regular safety training and refresher courses for operators.
  • Promote a safety culture that emphasizes caution and awareness.
  • Regularly inspect forklifts for any maintenance or safety issues.
  • Strictly enforce a policy that prohibits passengers from riding on the forks, platform, or any other unauthorized areas of the forklift.


Overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts and can result from improper turning, driving with an elevated load, or excessive speed.

Preventive Measures

  • Emphasize proper training for forklift operators, including safe turning techniques and load management.
  • Emphasize the importance of properly positioning the forks when lifting or moving loads.
  • Train operators to understand and adhere to the load capacity limits of the forklift.
  • Train operators to assess the stability of the forklift before starting any task. Ensure that the forklift is on stable ground and that the load is properly balanced and secured. Operators should be aware of the forklift’s stability characteristics and understand how different loads can affect its balance.
  • Encourage operators to drive at safe speeds and maintain proper load stability.
  • Conduct routine maintenance and inspections to ensure forklifts are in optimal working condition.
  • Implement measures such as seat belts, overhead guards, and stability-enhancing features to prevent tip-overs and rollovers.
  • Consider implementing proximity warning systems or other advanced technologies that alert operators to potential tripping hazards, such as when approaching maximum load capacities or operating on uneven terrain.


The key to mitigating forklift accidents and creating a safe work environment lies in the implementation of an effective preventive maintenance strategy. By incorporating eWorkOrders comprehensive maintenance management system (CMMS) into our maintenance operations, businesses can proactively address potential risks and significantly reduce the occurrence of forklift-related incidents. Regular inspections, scheduled servicing, and adherence to proper maintenance practices are essential components of this program. Furthermore, fostering a collaborative environment and providing continuous training will further enhance forklift safety measures. By prioritizing preventive maintenance, you can ensure the well-being of both operators and pedestrians, promoting a secure and productive work environment. 

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Please note that any procedure, checklist, or other documents available in Information Professionals, Inc. (eWorkOrders)  Library is provided for general education and information only and does not constitute legal, medical, or financial advice. By using any such materials, you assume the risk that they may not be appropriate for your specific situation and agree that you are solely responsible for any such use, including compliance with applicable law and with meeting any conditions of product warranties.

Resources: OSHA; Bureau of Labor and Statistics and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

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