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Working safely with a forklift truck (FLT)

A FLT is a combination of a lifting and transport device and is powered by an electric motor or an internal combustion engine.

FLT are used in many logistics companies as well as other businesses that contain warehouses. A FLT contains two long forks that are ideally suited for transporting goods that are on pallets. These two spoons create a forked shape from which the FLT gets its name.

In warehouses, electric-powered FLT are often used. Outside, people often use larger FLT that are equipped with a combustion engine and can lift loads up to a weight of over ten tons.

Dangers when working with FLT's

FLT are widely used, but that does not make operating these transport vehicles easy. A warehouse can all contain risk factors that make working with a forklift dangerous.

In a Risk Assessment and Evaluation, a company will need to name the hazards it faces and outline in a plan of action how to combat the risks. In the Risk Assessment and Evaluation, a company will also have to describe the hazards of internal transport equipment such as FLT. Below are some common hazards and accidents associated with the improper use of FLT..

  • Tilting of the vehicle
  • Falling or overturning of the load
  • Collision with persons and structures
  • Damage to FLT and goods due to reckless use
  • Inhalation of diesel engine exhaust when working in an enclosed area

Forklift truck

Safety guidelines for working with a FLT

A number of important aspects have been mentioned above with regard to working safely with a FLT. However, there are also a lot of rules when it comes to working safely with FLT. Below are some of the important ones..


Every day before starting work, the FLT should be checked against a checklist. If the FLT is in technically good condition and safe, it can be used.


FLT must be equipped with a horn to give a warning sound. The FLT should also be equipped with a removable key so that not everyone can use the FLT. The driver's seat should be protected by a sturdy cage and in addition, the driver should use a seat belt.


Be sure to follow the safety rules. Also look for warning signs and cordoned-off areas. Drive the FLT slowly through paths where personnel are moving on foot.


A FLT is intended for 1 person and co-driving of other persons is not allowed unless an extra seat is fitted to the FLT.


No lifting is allowed with the FLT unless a special lifting device is mounted on the FLT.


No persons may be lifted with the FLT. Standing on the scoops of a FLT is prohibited. Also, when persons sit on a pallet, they should definitely not be moved with a FLT. Lifting persons upwards is only allowed with an approved work bucket.


A FLT must be parked unloaded. The scoops should be on the floor and the mast of the FLT should tilt slightly forward.


Make sure that the lifted loads cannot fall on people. Therefore, the load should not be lifted and transported above people.


Rapid acceleration and abrupt braking should be avoided.


Drive in straight lines as much as possible and do not suddenly change direction with or without a load.


In case a slope has to be driven up with a FLT, the slope must always be driven upward forward. When driving down an incline one must drive backwards. Then the load is at the back of the FLT to prevent tilting of the load.


It is forbidden to use cell phones while driving the FLT.


Make sure you have adequate visibility while driving a FLT. If the load obstructs visibility, one should not drive forward but rather backward to maintain adequate visibility.


If a load consists of stacked objects or materials, they must be stacked in a sturdy connection.


The counterweight at the back of the FLT must not be weighted down.

A significant portion of the risks can be prevented by observing safety aspects such as adequate knowledge about working safely with FLT and the technical specifications of the forklift. These two topics are described in the following paragraphs.

Forklift certification

There are some general safety guidelines for operating a FLT. For example, the driver must be at least 18 years old. From the age of 16, however, a person may drive a FLT if the person is competently trained and supervised by a responsible person such as a supervisor.

It is important that the driver of the FLT is experienced and knowledgeable about the operation of the truck. By obtaining a FLT certificate or safe FLT operation certificate, an (aspiring) FLT operator can learn the most important (safety) guidelines and instructions needed for daily FLT operation. A FLT certificate could be thought of as a kind of driver's license for FLT. Many companies require FLT certification if an employee must use a FLT while working.

A FLT certification course is held by an accredited training institute. Participants must complete the FLT course with an exam. Upon successful completion of the exam, the participant receives the FLT certificate. With the FLT certificate, the FLT driver can demonstrate that he or she has the basic skills to safely operate a FLT. Of course, the FLT driver must also apply what he or she has learned in the FLT course in practice. A FLT certificate alone is no guarantee of safe working practices the attitude, motivation and concentration of the FLT driver is very important for workplace safety.

FLT's workload diagram

The driver will also need to be aware of the FLT's technical specifications and know the maximum load a FLT can lift and move. Much information the FLT driver can find on the forklift's nameplate and workload diagram. The workload diagram shows the FLT driver whether a given load can be lifted and transported safely and responsibly by the truck. The workload diagram shows not only the maximum lifting capacity but also the maximum lifting height. In addition, the workload diagram provides information about the stability of the FLT.

Some rules and laws may vary from country to country.

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