Tips for Forklift Driving Safety | Ask the Experts

Tips for Forklift Driving Safety | Ask the Experts

Forklift driving takes a lot more than just lifting and moving materials – Forklift operators should have an understanding of safety & balance, to keep materials, themselves, and others safe. One of the biggest risks forklift drivers face is tipping-over. According to OSHA, approximately 25% of forklift fatalities were from tip-over incidents.

Yes, it might seem basic, but it’s important to recognize the forklift’s center of gravity and stability triangle. In this blog, we’ll discuss tips to keep you balanced and everything else you need to know to stay safe in, out, and around the forklift.

In this blog we’ll cover:

  • Some of the biggest safety risks associated with balance and the most common type of forklift
  • Forklift center of gravity & the stability triangle
  • Other factors that contribute to forklift accidents and tip-overs
  • How to conduct visual & operational forklift inspections
  • Safety tips to remain balanced & safe while driving a forklift

There are four main potential safety risks considering balance and forklift driving. These are:

  1. How likely the forklift is to tip-over forward;
  2. How likely the forklift is to tip-over on its side;
  3. Maximum braking-level (or stopping distance) the forklift can perform;
  4. The maximum level of reversed-acceleration the forklift can perform.

In Canada, counter-balanced forklifts are one of the most often-seen types of forklift.



forklift driving stability triangle diagram

As we mentioned earlier, a counterbalance forklift has three ways it can tip—forward, or sideways, on the left or right.

While driving a forklift, it’s important to maintain its center of gravity. The center of gravity lives within the stability triangle.

The Centre of gravity is defined as the point within the triangle where the bulk of the mass is located. Although we don’t recommend trying it out, the center of gravity is also the point where the forklift could balance. Again—Take don’t try this one out, we recommend taking our word for it.

Calculating the forklifts’ center of gravity is complex (and unnecessary for daily use), but there are a few important things to understand in order to remain balanced as you operate the forklift.

When the forklift is stationary, it won’t tip as the force is on the center, but tilts forward when force is applied to the front tines (also called forks) or its back. It’s also worth noting that a forklift is more likely to tip sideways, than forwards. Therefore, adding a load to the front forks decreases the chance the forklift will tip on its side.

Alternatively, lifting the forks on the truck with a load will cause the forklift’s stability to decrease on all sides.


The type of load and how it is placed on the forklift contributes significantly to forklift accidents. First and foremost, you should always avoid awkwardly stacking or piling your load in a way that causes instability. Unmaintained pallets, too heavy of a load, or too tall of a load can also cause a hazard by having the load break apart mid-travel, or by obstructing the driver’s view.

Making sure your forklift is in top shape is also key to avoiding accidents. Another common contributor to forklift accidents is faulty or malfunctioning mechanics. This includes faulty steering, brakes, clutch, transmission or mast assembly, inadequate or malfunctioning safety devices, improper forklift emissions, or poorly organized controls and displays on the forklift.


To help maintain the center of gravity, there are three main things to keep in mind with driving a forklift:

  1. Don’t distribute the load unevenly on the forks, this will increase the frequency of sideways tip-overs
  2. Don’t load the forklift beyond its WLL, this will make the forklift prone to tipping
  3. Be sure to move the load all the way to the back of the forks

If you’re driving a forklift, you should never:

  • Drive a forklift without any capacity ratings listed
  • Travel in a forklift with a load raised more than 4 inches
  • Leave the forklift alone while running, or with a load
  • Let unauthorized personnel operate a forklift
  • Attempt to adjust the load from the operating cab
  • Raise a load extending over the load backrest, unless no part of the load can slide back toward the operator
  • Use pallets with forks as a make-shift elevated work platform (it’s more common than you think!)
  • Let personnel stand/walk under any elevated part of the forklift

It’s important to communicate potential hazards for everyone working in a space where forklifts are found, and use proper signals to keep yourself and others safe. Here are some tips to help keep others safe while driving a forklift:

  • Restrict access to areas where forklifts are used (and create procedures to keep workers safe when they must enter spaces where forklifts operate)
  • OR, create designated walkways or traveling paths to separate pedestrians from forklifts
  • Pedestrians should always let the forklift driver know when they’re in the area—Eye contact is a simple way to make your presence know
  • Keep the area, particular the traveling path free from obstacles and ensure it’s well-lit
  • Be careful when driving around sharp/blind corners, doorways, and narrow aisles. Honk your forklift horn at intersections.
  •  Wear hi-vis clothing & PPE
  • Load the forks so your line of vision is clear
  • Avoid driving the forklift near people-heavy areas
  • Don’t walk under or near forks


A forklift operator should inspect their forklift daily, at the beginning of each shift and before each use.

The operator should do a visual circle-check of the forklift (a walk-around) and an operational pre-use check. What do these involve?

During a visual inspection before use, the operator should: 

  • General condition/cleanliness (this includes the forklift and surrounding floor & overhead work areas)
  • Ensure a charged fire extinguisher is nearby
  • Make sure engine oil, fuel, and radiator fluid levels are correct
  • Establish that the propane tank’s fuel-tank mounting system, fuel-tank position pin, propane relief valves, and hose are in good condition
  • Make sure the battery is fully charged, there are no exposed wires, plug connections are in good condition, vent caps are clear, electrolyte levels in cells are acceptable and are in-place with hold-downs or brackets
  • See that bolts, nuts, guards, chains, or hydraulic hose reels are not damaged, disconnected or missing
  • Check for wear, damage, and air-pressure (pneumatic tires) in wheels & tires
  • Ensure forks/tines are not bent or chipped and are level & properly positioned—Also check that positioning latches and carriage teeth aren’t broken or worn
  • Make sure chain anchor pins aren’t worn, loose or bent
  • Make sure there are no fluid leaks, damp spots, or drips
  • Ensure hoses are secured and not loose, crimped, or worn
  • Check for grease & debris in the operator compartment
  • Make sure the seatbelt fastens & works properly
  • Guards: Ensure guards, overhead guards, and roll-over protection structure (ROPS) are secure & undamaged

During a pre-operational inspection, the forklift operator should check: 

  • FOOT & PARKING BRAKEEnsure pedal holds & unit stops smoothly, and brake holds against slight acceleration
  • DEADMAN SEAT BRAKE: Make sure it holds when the operator rises from the seat
  • CLUTCH & GEARSHIFT: Make sure they shift smoothly and don’t jump or snag
  • DASH CONTROL PANELCheck that all lights & gauges are operational
  • HORN: Make sure the horn sounds loudly enough to be heard overwork
  • BACK-UP: Make sure the reverse alarm and other warning devices work properly
  • LIGHTS: Ensure headlights and warning lights function properly
  • STEERING: Make sure the steering-wheel works smoothly
  • LIFT MECHANISMMake sure they operate smoothly—You can check by lifting forks to their maximum height, then lowering them completely
  • TILT MECHANISM: Make sure the tilt mechanism works properly & holds the load—You can check by tilting the mast forward and backward completely.
  • CYLINDERS & HOSESCheck these last and make sure they’re not leaking after doing these checks.


There are many work-related issues that contribute to forklift driving, safety & general operation.

Ensure you conduct the three types of inspections we cover in this blog, be mindful of the forklift’s stability triangle & forks, keep travel slow, steady & free from obstacles to ensure your safety and others around you—And never let someone drive the forklift without proper training, or who hasn’t been designated.

Forklift Driving training course outline

Through our Hercules Training Academy, we offer an extensive suite of high-quality safety training and certification courses, including Forklift Safety (Narrow or Counterbalance) Brand new classrooms and specialized training equipment enable us to provide an even higher quality of service than ever before when it comes to safety training.

Whether you’re looking for initial or refresher training, we provide practical, hands-on courses designed to exceed the minimum safety requirements.

Our courses can be customized to fit your workplace’s specific needs. We are always willing to design a course (or multiple courses) specifically for you!

If you’re interested in building a customized training program, please get in touch. One of our training representatives would be happy to help you get started.


Winter Forklift Safety Tips

Winter Forklift Safety Tips

Hopefully, your car is fully prepared for winter—What about your forklift?

Winter in Canada can be a beautiful thing, fresh layers of glistening white snow coating trees and a shiny layer of frost on the grass…But as Canadian’s we know it’s not always quite that glamorous. Canadian winters require a lot of planning and preparation – It means it’s time to dig the shovels out from the back of the shed, making sure the winter tires get on the car in time and pull the winter coat from the back of the closet.

As good as Canadians have come to be at preparing for winter, there are some things that still may fall through the cracks. You may not realize the extra safety precautions that need to be taken when operating a forklift in the winter.

Read on to learn how to stay safe while operating a forklift this winter!

Prepare Your Forklift for Winter

Forklift operators should give their forklift a detailed inspection to minimize the chance of experiencing a forklift breakdown and getting stuck in the middle of an aggressive winter storm. Getting a tuneup ahead of winter is always recommended. And of course, as always ensure you are up to date on all of your scheduled service visits and inspections. Things to ensure are in tip-top shape before braving the winter months are:

  • Tires: Check tires for proper air pressure (for pneumatic tires) and to ensure that there is sufficient depth on your treads (needed for both solid and air-filled tires). For forklifts operating in snow or ice specialized forklift chains can be installed to provide extra grip
  • Lights: Winter doesn’t just bring cold weather, it also means darker days – So ensuring your lights are in working order is something you may not think of, but is especially important. Tip – If your forklift uses halogen lighting it may be a good time to consider upgrading to LED, which lasts longer, shines brighter and is not affected by freezing temperatures or the vibrations created by your forklift during operation!
  • Hydraulics: Frigid winter temperatures can cause joints to stiffen up so ensure all of your moving parts are well-lubricated.
  • Cabs: If your forklift has an enclosed cab and windshield (recommended for winter conditions), be sure the heater and windshield wipers are working correctly and that all latches are lubricated.
  • Cooling System: It is important to ensure there is the correct amount of anti-freeze used in the coolant system. Anti-freeze ensures that the engine will not freeze solid and block the coolant system, which can lead to a number of problems including dangerous overheating.

It’s also important to remember to allow your forklift to warm up before using it. Everyone knows you’re supposed to let your car warm up during cold weather, a forklift is no different! Allowing it to warm up lessens the chance of combustion and transmission-related problems occurring.

Ensure Forklift Operators are Appropriately Clothed

Pre-winter planning is not limited to the equipment itself, especially for work that takes place outdoors. It’s important to make sure operators are equipped to do the job under more challenging conditions. Clothing needs to be able to protect operators from snow, ice, wet and slippery conditions, cold or strong winds and limited visibility.

To protect the most vulnerable areas of the body against frostbite (i.e., the ears, nose, fingers, and toes) operators need to wear appropriate protective gear including a warm hat, gloves, face mask, and water-proof boots while operating a forklift (or during most work, for that matter!) Layers are the key here, so pairing these items with wind-proof, water-resistant and high visibility outerwear, is the best way to tackle the cold and wet conditions found throughout the winter months.

Always keep in mind typical year-round PPE such as protective eyewear, hard hats, steel-toe boots or safety gloves and ensure bundling up isn’t inhibiting your ability to wear those things. You may need to purchase specialized PPE meant to keep you safe & warm at the same time like NORTH OF 49° gloves.

north of 49 work gloves ppe hand protection safety

Operator Training and Education

Beyond supplying the proper equipment to your employees, it’s essential to educate your operators with the fundamental knowledge and practical skills of operating a forklift. The Hercules SLR Training Academy can deliver this training (and more!) at The Hercules Training Academy or it can also be delivered on-site. The content covers:

  • Regulations
  • Hazard assessment
  • Pre-use inspections
  • Equipment stability
  • Operating principles
  • Refueling
  • Battery care

When it comes to managing the additional challenges posed by the winter weather, these steps can help navigate you through your shift ensuring you’re keeping the most important elements in mind:

Before Your Shift

  • Conduct a proper pre-operation inspection of the forklift. Record and report any issues.
  • Check the weather outside and make sure to adjust driving habits to current weather conditions.
  • Install and check all winter items – Including weatherized PPE and things like tire chains if needed on your forklift.
  • Avoid cold starts by allowing the forklift to properly warm-up before operating.

During Your Shift

  • Only travel as fast as the weather conditions permit – Slow down if needed and drive carefully.
  • Remove any accumulation of snow on windscreens, lights, etc. to maintain proper visibility.
  • Be sure to stop working if conditions deteriorate such as: slippery driving conditions (don’t let this be you!), limited visibility, etc. – Safety first! 
  • Try to avoid short run times (less than 30 minutes) as forklift engines tend to run a richer fuel mixture during the first 20 minutes of operation. This means it is possible for water vapor to accumulate in the engine oil and exhaust system in the cold, as evaporation isn’t possible. Try to plan your day so you can do multiple forklift tasks at once instead of scattered throughout the day.

After Your Shift

  • Clean the forklift – Remove all snow, dirt, and salt in order to prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Make sure to plug in the forklift’s block and/or battery heater to avoid issues at the start of the next shift.
  • Park the forklift in a warm and dry place in between uses to avoid issues related to ice formation.

Click here to view the Forklift Safety Training course overview.

Through our Hercules Training Academy, we offer an extensive suite of high-quality safety training and certification courses. Brand new classrooms and specialized training equipment enable us to provide an even higher quality of service than ever before when it comes to safety training.

Whether you’re looking for initial or refresher training, we provide practical, hands-on courses designed to exceed the minimum safety requirements.

Our courses can be customized to fit your workplace’s specific needs. We are always willing to design a course (or multiple courses) specifically for you!

If you’re interested in building a customized training program, please get in touch. One of our training representatives would be happy to help you get started.