Lift trucks (powered and non-powered, pedestrian and rider operated) are involved in many fatal and major injuries every year. It’s a topic that requires serious consideration with proper and effective communication, so the importance of safe use and everyone’s responsibility is recognised by all workers.

Common scenarios that result in injuries, fatalities and property damage include:

  • unsafe reversing;
  • speeding;
  • overloading;
  • using the truck to do something it wasn’t designed for (e.g. carrying passengers or lifting people);
  • a lack of driver training;
  • failure to appropriately assess the risks;
  • poor communication and co-operation;
  • ineffective (or a lack of) arrangements for segregation of pedestrians and vehicles;
  • hazardous surface conditions (on roads, yards, car parks and designated pedestrian routes);
  • insufficient information, instruction and training; and
  • inadequate vehicle selection, inspection, maintenance and repairs.

Cases of ill health can arise from using diesel trucks in enclosed and confined working areas (allowing fumes to build up and causing breathing problems), as well as poor seating and controls and damaged roadways, which may cause vibration leading to back problems and upper-limb disorders.

Key actions to manage the risks from lift trucks

  • Carry out a risk assessment for where the lift truck is used, identifying blind spots and designing traffic routes that minimise interaction between trucks and pedestrians.
    • Make sure the risk assessment is reviewed on a regular basis and whenever the workplace changes.
  • Get the right truck for the job. Base your purchasing decisions on findings and conclusions of your risk assessments.
  • Maintain all lift trucks regularly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and only by trained, competent persons.
  • Maintain seats to minimise unhealthy postures and vibration.
  • ave a recorded system for daily inspections so any defects are identified and reported as soon as possible. Where appropriate, the truck should  be taken out of action until the defect is corrected.
  • Get thorough examinations carried out periodically, along with regular safety inspections, within periods set out by legislation – or recommended following previous examinations.
    • Examine attachments at least once a year. For attachments that carry people, the frequency is increased to every six months.
  • Select personnel for training as operators/drivers carefully – keep written records of who is authorised to operate and drive lift trucks.
  • Hold regular refresher training for operators / drivers.
  • Avoid lift truck routes near vulnerable plant and hazardous areas (e.g. flammable liquid stores) and/or install physical protections (i.e. barriers) for such plant and areas.
  • Put speed limits, clear signs and road markings in place (as well as training) along lift truck routes to make drivers aware of hazards.
  • Protect drivers against falling objects, collisions and overturning with seat restraints, roll-over protective structures (ROPS), falling object protective structure (FOPS) and canopies.
  • Segregate busy lift truck areas/routes from pedestrians and working areas as much as possible. Pay particular attention to barriers, layout, visibility and lighting.
  • Set up different entrance and exit points for pedestrians and lift trucks.
  • Ensure operating surfaces are strong enough, well maintained and gradients aren’t too steep.
  • Train all employees on lift truck movements if the truck is used on the road (to load and unload a lorry, for example) and provide a second person to help with traffic (a banksman), as necessary.
  • Check with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) what provisions need to be made so that lift trucks can be used regularly on the road for long periods, along with the arrangements required for the drivers.
  • Keep keys secure when trucks are not being used – read our security topic page  on management of keys and access codes for detailed guidance regarding this.
  • Make sure battery charging takes place in well ventilated areas with restricted access and no sources of ignition in close proximity and those responsible for charging the trucks are sufficiently informed, instructed and trained and are provided with suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Refuel combustion engines and replace LP cylinders on lift trucks outside the building.
  • Check that workers operating high level reach trucks have completed training in the use of the emergency evacuation equipment and such equipment held within the cab gets inspected on a regular basis.
  • Ensure that the lift truck is not used within an explosive atmosphere unless it complies with the ATEX directive 94/9/EC.
  • Do not use forks, pallets or bins to lift a person for work at height; Use properly designed mobile work platforms.

Templates that may help with lift trucks

Forklift truck

Pre-use checks

Risk assessments

Example form

Guards and safety devices

Inspection form

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about health and safety issues and related legislation.