Working with forklifts

Forklifts can increase safety in workplaces as they reduce the need for manual handling y employees, and a s a result, can minimise the risk of manual handling issues.

However, like any machine, forklifts can be dangerous if not operated properly. Their misuse can cause workplace deaths and injuries resulting in substantial financial and human costs.

Forklift incidents can be prevented, especially when workers and businesses work together to improve workplace health and safety. If you are required to operate a forklift in your role, it’s vital that you’re aware of the practical and safe ways to operate forklifts.

Safety Procedures

At a minimum, your workplace should have:

  • An adequate and appropriate traffic management plan;
  • Procedures for adherence to load limits and for loading and management of loads;
  • Key control procedures to ensure only competent forklift operators have access to the keys of the forklift;
  • Fuel handling/storage procedures;
  • Battery charging/changing procedures;
  • Pre-operational safety checks, plus maintenance and reporting procedures;
  • Training in the relevant procedures, not only for operators but also for other employees and any visitors to the workplace;
  • Adequate supervision by management, to ensure that all safety procedures are adhered to.

Training and licensing

Forklift operators must be trained and hold a relevant licence. They must also be competent at operating the forklift in the environment in which they are required to work.

Your Responsibilities – DOs & DON’Ts

  • Do make sure before using a forklift that it is in safe working condition, and report any faults to a supervisor;
  • Do make sure that you are adequately trained – ask for further training if necessary;
  • Do observe safety rules and procedures such as speed limits and warning signals;
  • Do avoid sudden braking when operating a forklift;
  • Do be aware of your fellow workers or visitors to the site;
  • Do wear your seatbelt and other restraining devices;
  • Do report all near-misses or accidents;
  • Do consider the size, shape and composition of a load before lifting it and the terrain over which it will be carried.


  • Don’t operate a forklift which is in a condition of poor repair;
  • Don’t carry out maintenance unless you are trained and authorised to do so;
  • Don’t overload a forklift;
  • Don’t drive with the load lifted, travel with the load tilted backwards and low to the ground where possible;
  • Don’t drive outside of marked areas of operation;
  • Don’t carry passengers on a forklift;
  • Don’t raise a person on the forks or on a pallet;
  • Don’t leave the keys where unlicensed people can access them.

This is a guide only. For more information about forklift safety contact the union on 1300 SDA HELP (that’s 1300 732 4357), or visit the Safe Work Australia website or phone 13 10 50.

We’ve got you covered

For news and info from where you work, choose your industry.