Forklift Mistakes Made by Operators

Even the best forklift operators make mistakes. From forgetting to check the battery and finding it flat, to something more serious, such as misjudging the angle of a corner and crashing or tipping the truck. Most forklift accidents can be avoided by following the basic rules and regulations and using a little common sense – have a read over our top 10 most common forklift mistakes below, and make sure you’re not the one making them!

1. Miscommunication

Forklifts are not only dangerous to the operators, but to nearby pedestrian workers too. In fact, one of the most common forklift accidents is a pedestrian being struck by a moving vehicle. The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen, is to maintain good communication with those working around you at all times. Forklifts have lots of blind spots, so it is essential that the operator follows safety signs and checks the sound and light signals, including the reversing sounder, are all working properly before beginning any manoeuvre. You should also follow set forklift zones so people working nearby can anticipate your actions.

2. Trying to do it all alone

Forklift operations may look straightforward, but due to the numerous blind spots even the simplest of manoeuvres can be complex and hard work. That said, the tasks can be made much simpler by teaming up with a qualified signaller. They can direct you with hand signals, and will be able to let you know if you’re approaching a hazard, if you need to stop for a pedestrian in your blind spot or if you need help navigating and lifting a load safely. A signaller can be incredibly useful and will enhance your safety, as well as the safety of those working around you.

3. Lack of thorough inspection

It’s a basic requirement of any forklift operator that they should carry out a thorough inspection of their truck before operating it, in line with the PUWER regulations, and they should check the truck has a certificate of thorough examination in line with the LOLER regulations. Before beginning work, the operator should check all lifting equipment, and ensure it is properly maintained for use. This would include simple pre-use checks, such as inspecting the lifting chains and slings, brakes and controls. This inspection could identify a problem that could have very serious consequences if not remedied before use.

4. Driving too Fast

Forklifts should always be driven at a responsible speed when used in close proximity to pedestrians or other vehicles. The unstable nature of the forklift, especially with a heavy load, means that it can easily tip over if driven too fast. It may be tempting to speed up to get jobs done quicker, but safety should always should be prioritised above productivity.

5. Not checking the machine’s capacity

Operators should always check that the forklift they are using is fit for the task at hand, and most importantly, that it has the weight capacity to handle any loads that may be heavier than normal. Over loading a forklift is easy to do, and can result in the forklift tipping up – not only risking the safety of the operator and those working nearby, but also causing damage to stock, the vehicle and the surroundings. Similarly opting for a forklift not suitable for the particular environment can result in accidents. For example rough terrain trucks should be used on building sites and side loaders are best for narrow aisles.

6. Improper load distribution

Another common mistake forklift truck drivers make is failing to distribute the load properly. This involves placing the load too far forward or too far back on the forks, leading to instability. Improper load distribution can result in the forklift tipping over or the load falling off, which can pose serious safety risks.

7. Ignoring blind spots

Overlooking blind spots is a common error made by forklift operators. These blind spots, particularly around the rear and sides of the forklift, can lead to collisions with obstacles, pedestrians or other equipment. If you’re not consistently checking blind spots, then you’re putting everyone in the vicinity at risk. To make sure that nobody is in harm’s way, drivers must use mirrors, horn signals, and if available, assistive technologies to minimise blind spot risks and enhance overall safety.

8. Ignoring pedestrian right-of-way

Warehouses aren’t entirely made up of machines, forklifts share their workspace with pedestrians, so it’s important to understand where and when you can move your truck forward, and when you need to give way. Failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians or not maintaining a safe distance during operation can lead to accidents and injuries, so be extra careful when operating a truck near pedestrians, and if in doubt – give way.

9. Inadequate mast tilt control

Incorrectly adjusting the mast tilt can lead to stability issues and potential accidents. Tilting the mast too far forward or backward while carrying a load can cause the forklift to become unbalanced, increasing the risk of tipping over. If you didn’t know, the mast tilt controls the angle of the forks and load, affecting the stability of the forklift. Drivers must use the mast tilt carefully, ensuring that it is appropriately adjusted for the specific load.

10. Neglecting pre-operational checks

Failing to perform thorough pre-operational checks before using the forklift is a common mistake. Neglecting this essential step can lead to the operation of a defective or unsafe machine, increasing the likelihood of things like accidents and breakdowns. Pre-operational checks are critical to identifying potential issues with the forklift, such as brake malfunctions, fluid leaks, or tire problems. Regular inspections contribute to the overall safety and functionality of the equipment, so don’t skimp on them!

Health and Safety Training Ltd

To ensure your staff are properly trained to operate forklifts and follow the strict regulations in place for their safety as well as the safety of those around them – contact the team at UK Forklift Truck Training. We can provide all the required training,