Forklift Safety: Managing the Risks



Forklifts also referred to as industrial lift trucks are used to lift, stack and transfer loads in workplaces worldwide. Commonly used in warehouse, industrial, transport and logistic settings, the use of forklifts in workplaces can present serious hazards.

On average, across the globe each year, forklifts contribute to 61,800 non-serious accidents and 34,900 serious injury incidents. What is more, is forklifts contribute to some 85 – 100 fatalities each year worldwide. A ‘Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2013’ report released by Safe Work Australia shows there were 45 forklift truck fatalities between 2006 and 2013 – with the most recent being 6 fatalities in 2013.


Source: Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities Australia 2013 – Safe Work Australia

Forklift Safety: The Hazards

Frequently used in workplaces on a day to day basis forklifts even at low speeds and unloaded can cause serious injuries and fatalities.

Common safety issues involved with forklifts include:

  • Instability – forklift tip over (biggest danger for forklift operator)
  • Speed and stopping distances
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Failure to provide or inadequate operator training
  • Lack of traffic management planning
  • A safe work environment (free from clutter etc)
  • Failure to perform regular inspections prior to use

Managing The Risks: Know Your Responsibilities

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure they provide a workplace that is safe. To provide a safe work environment it is important to establish on-site systems and procedures such as:

Forklift licences

In Australia, to operate, forklift operators are required to hold a current high-risk work licence. High-risk work licences can be obtained after completion of a recognised training course with a registered training organisation (RTO) and satisfying competency criteria in the presence of an RTO assessor.

Forklift Pre-Start Checks

Pre-start checks play an important role in day to day management of hazards. Forklifts can become dangerous if regular inspections and maintenance are not carried out.

Ensuring forklifts are in a safe working order can assist in ensuring the:

  • Forklift is in a good condition
  • Safety equipment is fitted and in good condition
  • Safety guards are in place and free from damage
  • Pedals and controls operate correctly
  • Flashing lights / reversing beepers functioning
  • Operator seat belt in good condition

Forklift Truck Safe Work Method Statement

Ensure you and your workers are aware of the hazards, risks and control measures associated with the use of forklift trucks with our ready to use Forklift SWMS template. Available in our new release 2016 SWMS template, the forklift safe work method statement provides a detailed outline of the safety steps for forklifts fuelled by petrol/diesel, LPG or electricity.

The SWMS also contains a mobile plant pre-start checklist to assist with routine inspections.

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