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Forklift Safety

The college uses powered industrial trucks, commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, to move materials. They can be used to move, raise, lower, or remove large objects or a number of smaller objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers.

Forklifts are powerful, heavy vehicles that can seriously injure or kill an operator or others and do a lot of damage to equipment and property if not kept under control. The operator must be familiar with the vehicle and be aware of potential dangers and how to avoid them while handling a load at the same time.

The hazards an operator will usually encounter depend on the vehicle type and the where the truck is used. Each type of truck presents different operating hazards. For example, you are more likely to have a load fall from a sit-down, counterbalanced high lift rider truck than a motorized hand truck because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. Workplace conditions also present different hazards. Operators at the college may move materials across the campus and have to watch for pedestrians, slopes and uneven surfaces; or enter buildings such as a parking garage where overhead space is very tight.

Program Overview

This program describes the practices and policies for industrial truck operators and their supervisors to ensure the health and safety of employees, students and visitors while operating and/or working around powered industrial trucks, as required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.178.

No person shall operate a powered industrial truck owned or leased by Montgomery College or on College premises without appropriate training and qualification.

For the purpose of this program, powered industrial trucks include the vehicles described in the OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.178. It does not include personnel and burden carriers, such as those used for security and grounds maintenance; earth-movers; or over-the-road vehicles.

  • All trucks owned or leased must conform to the design requirements of ASME/ANSI B56-1.1969 in accordance with OSHA standards. New trucks should conform to the current available standard from the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation (ITSDF).
  • All trucks shall bear a durable nameplate that describes (a) truck model designation and serial number, (b) truck weight, (c) designation of compliance with ASME/ANSI, and (d) type designation.
  • The nameplate shall also identify original attachments, weight of the truck with attachments and the capacity of the truck and attachment. For high lift trucks, the plate shall also show capacity at maximum elevation with a load centered on the forks.
  • If a truck is modified or altered, the nameplate must show the new capacities and the truck must be marked to describe the change, the date and name of organization accomplishing the task.
  • The Environmental Safety Specialist shall determine the hazard classification of any atmosphere or location where trucks are to be utilized. Departments will be responsible to utilize only trucks designated for that location or area. An approved truck has markings indicating its design is accepted by the appropriate nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • All high lift rider trucks shall be equipped with an overhead guard. The overhead guard shall not be covered with any opaque rain covering or shield that would interfere with the operators overhead vision.
  • All sit-down trucks shall have an appropriate safety belt installed by the manufacturer or professional installer.
  • Fuel-powered industrial trucks shall not be operated in areas where carbon monoxide or other exhaust products may exceed Permissible Exposure Limits. Contact Public Health & Environmental Safety for an area assessment before operating an industrial truck inside a building.
  • Trucks shall be equipped with a load backrest to prevent the load from falling toward the truck when he load is elevated and tilted backward.
  • A manufacturer's "Operators Manual" shall remain on the lift truck at all times. If the truck is modified or altered, the change shall be added to the manual.
  • All trucks shall be equipped with a back-up alarm in addition to the safety features required by the standards.

 What You Need to Know

Those that have control over the operations using trucks are considered the “user” in this program. The user shall:

  • Ensure trucks acquired and used for their operations meet appropriate design and construction standards, and are maintained to provide safe operation.
  • Ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a truck safely, through successful training and by evaluating the operator’s performance.
  • Investigate for all accidents and near miss incidents to stop them from happening again.
  • Operate a powered industrial truck only if trained and authorized.
  • Operate in accordance with this procedure and safe operating practices.
  • Inspect the equipment and completing an inspection checklist at the beginning of each shift when the truck is used.
  • Immediately report any problems or unsafe conditions to their immediate supervisor.
  • Only operate equipment that is in safe operating condition.
  • Report all accidents, regardless of damage or injury, immediately to their supervisor and Public Safety & Emergency Management. If injured, initiate emergency procedures for medical treatment.
  • Assist in providing training.
  • Provide workplace assessments and provide technical assistance to control hazards.
  • Assisting in conducting accident investigations with the department.
  • Comply with the OSHA requirements.
  • Provide qualified operators.
  • Using compliant equipment.


Operator Training

Before using a powered industrial truck, operators shall receive initial training in all the following topics that apply to the workplace.

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate.
  • Differences between the truck and the automobile.
  • Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work.
  • Engine or motor operation.
  • Steering and maneuvering.
  • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading).
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations.
  • Vehicle capacity.
  • Vehicle stability.
  • Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.
  • Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries.
  • Operating limitations.
  • Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated.
  • Composition of loads to be carried and load stability.
  • Load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking.
  • Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated.
  • Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated.
  • Hazardous (classified) locations where the vehicle will be operated.
  • Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle's stability.
  • Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust.
  • Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.

If an operator was previously trained in one of these topics, and the training is appropriate to the truck and working conditions encountered, additional training on that topic is not required if the operator has been evaluated and found competent to operate the truck safely.

Trainees may operate a powered industrial truck only:

  1. Under the direct supervision of persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators and evaluate their competence.
  2. Where such operation does not endanger the trainee or other people.

Refresher Training and Evaluation

Evaluate each operator at least once every three years to ensure that the operator has the knowledge and skills needed to operate the powered industrial truck safely. In most cases, the person conducting the evaluation would do two things: first, observe the powered industrial truck operator during normal operations to determine if the operator is performing safely, and second, ask pertinent questions to ensure that the operator has the knowledge or experience needed to operate a truck safely.

Provide refresher training in relevant topics to the operator when:

  • The operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
  • The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident.
  • The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely.
  • The operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck.
  • A condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safe operation of the truck.


File a copy of the certificate of training or evaluation with the Public Health & Environmental Safety office. Certification must include:

  • the operator’s name
  • training date
  • evaluation date
  • the name of the person(s) providing training or evaluation

General Safety

  • Store and handle liquid fuels, such as gasoline and diesel fuel, in accordance with NFPA Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code (NFPA 30-1969). Contact Environmental Safety for assistance in setting up flammable liquid storage.
  • TURN OFF the engine before filling fuel tanks.
  • Avoid spills. Clean up oil or fuel spills immediately.
  • Make sure the fuel tank cap is in place before starting the engine.
  • If there is a leak in the fuel system, take the truck out of service.
  • No smoking or open flames.
  • Store and handle liquefied petroleum gas shall be in accordance with NFPA Storage and Handling of Liquefied Petroleum Gases (NFPA 58-1969). Contact Environmental Safety for assistance in setting up LPG storage.
  • The fuel cylinder must always be secured in the brackets when the truck is in operation.
  • If there is a leak in the fuel system, shut off the fuel cylinder valve and take the truck out of service.
  • Close the valve on the fuel cylinder when work with the truck is done for the day.
  • Shut off and remove the LP gas tank when "garaging" the truck (leaving the lift truck in a closed space or room or leaving the truck out of service for 24 hours or more). After the gas is shut off, run the truck engine to burn off fuel remaining in the fuel lines.
  • If a fuel cylinder leaks, take it outside well away from the building and any sources of ignition. Notify Campus Security. Secure the area and allow the cylinder to empty itself. It may be very dangerous to attempt to repair the leak.
  • No smoking or open flames.
  • Designate a battery charging area away from combustible materials and kept clear of obstructions and provide written instructions for changing and charging batteries in accordance with ANSI/NFPA 505.
  • Install an eye wash station and safety shower adjacent to the battery charging area. Travel to the eye wash/safety shower must be clear and unobstructed.
  • Provide a face shield, an acid resistant apron, and acid resistant gloves for battery charging and maintenance.
  • Batteries produce hydrogen gas while charging. Do not smoke, use an open flame or do any work that produces sparks within 25 feet of batteries or a truck connected to a charger.


Neglecting maintenance or failing to make repairs and adjustments in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions may make operating a truck very hazardous. The truck user shall make sure there are maintenance facilities (on or off premises), trained personnel, and detailed procedures for truck maintenance.

  • Only trained and authorized personnel may maintain, repair, adjust, and inspect industrial trucks, and in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications.
  • The user shall make sure the maintenance mechanic has parts manuals and maintenance manuals.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to schedule maintenance, lubrication and inspection.
  • Inspect forks in service at least once every 12 months for single shift operations, or whenever any defect or permanent deformation is detected.
  • Trained and qualified personnel must conduct fork inspection to detect damage, failure, deformation, etc. which might impair safe use.
  • Remove a defective fork from service and do not use it unless it is satisfactorily repaired and tested by the manufacturer or an expert of equal competence.

Keep the truck clean to minimize fire hazards and make it easier to detect loose or defective parts.

Operating the Lift Truck

Prepare a written inspection checklist for the lift truck. The operator will inspect the truck at least daily before placing it in service. Examine a truck after each shift if it is used on more than one shift per day.

The operator will conduct a “walk-around” check with the key off and then perform an operational check with the engine running. Remove the truck from service if the examinations show that the vehicle may not be safe to operate. Removing a truck from service means taking the key out and turning it over to the supervisor responsible for initiating repairs and maintenance.

Keep a log of the pre-operation inspection where it is readily available for review while the truck is in operation.

As a lift truck operator, you must follow safe operating rules at all times. Always maintain control of the truck, keep a proper lookout, and operate the truck at speeds safe for the particular operation and worksite conditions.

Descending grades require more stopping distance – reduce speed, limit loads and/or clear the space at the bottom of the grade.
Uneven surfaces, grades and poor housekeeping can make the truck unstable. Even an unloaded truck will tip over if turned too fast, run across a grade or too fast over uneven or slippery surfaces.
Low clearances limit the overall height of the load. Traveling a parking garage ramp may mean lifting the load slightly to clear the grade and lowering it, again, to clear overhead obstacles.
You may need to block access or get help from a spotter to travel routes commonly used by pedestrians and/or automobiles.

  • Before starting a truck, conduct a walk-around inspection and operational check.
  • Fasten your safety belt.
  • Ensure that your way is clear.
  • Sound your horn in warning or use a spotter if your view is obstructed.
  • Proceed cautiously down the travel path watching for dangerous blind spots.
  • Stop at the end of an aisle, corner, building entrance or exit; sound your horn and look for pedestrians before continuing.
  • No passengers
  • Keep yourself and your body parts inside the vehicle.
  • Set the brake before reaching out for objects, handles or switches.
  • Keep your hands and fingers inside the frame – especially when turning to look behind you while traveling in reverse.
  • If the vehicle tips over, DO NOT JUMP! Grasp the steering wheel – not the overhead guard or supports – and lean away from the fall.
  • Always keep a safe speed so you can stop when you need to and keep the truck from turning over.
  • Slow down for wet or slippery surfaces.
  • Look where you are going and keep a clear view of your path. Drive in reverse if the load blocks your view.
  • Obey all traffic rules.
  • Slow down and sound your horn at the end of an aisle or at a corner where your view is not clear. If you cannot see beyond the corner, at all, without extending the load or part of the truck into the path, stop first and move slowly until you can see clearly.
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way. Stop for pedestrians approaching the crosswalk.
  • Look before moving. Do not assume that any pedestrian or bystander hears or understands your horn or back-up alarm.
  • NEVER drive toward a person standing in front of a bench, wall, truck or other fixed or unmovable object.

A powered industrial truck is considered "unattended" when you are 25 ft. or more away from the vehicle -- even if it remains in view – or whenever you leave the vehicle and it is not in view.

  • Lower the forks or other lift device
  • Set the controls in neutral
  • Shut off the power
  • Set the brake
  • Get off the truck without jumping
  • Block the wheels if you parked the truck on an incline
  • Take the key out

Secure the load so it is safe to handle. Wrap or band damaged goods before carrying them. Center the load as nearly as possible. If a load is heavier on one side, put the heaviest side nearest the truck’s front wheels. Do not overload. Know the stated capacity of your forklift and do not exceed it. Use extra caution when handling loads that approach the truck's maximum rated capacity:

  • Tilt the mast back and position the heaviest part of the load against the carriage
  • Travel with the mast tilted back to keep the load stable
  • Do not operate a forklift if the back wheels begin to lift off the ground. The forklift is overloaded.
  • Never travel with the load elevated