Safety is the most important factor when lifting, moving, or lowering a load with a forklift. Smooth operation is essential for maintaining stability and preventing accidents. The following offers some recommendations for loading, carrying the load, and unloading a forklift to ensure worker safety.


Make sure the load is within the forklift’s rated capacity. The nameplate lists the maximum weight the forklift can carry – never exceed it!

Forklifts are top heavy – do not use counter-weights to balance a heavy load; instead, split the load.

Check that the load is stable and centered, and stack and/or tie uneven or loose loads.

Use the proper lift fixture for the type of load (e.g., carpet spike, drum grappler, etc.).

When lifting a load, spread the forks as widely as possible for even distribution, drive into the loading position and insert the forks far enough to be sure the load is completely on the forks and is slightly touching the carriage, and tilt the forks to shift the weight of the load back, which will make the lift more stable.

If the load is unbalanced, keep the heavier end closer to the carriage, tilt the mast back, lift the load, and tilt the mast back a little more before traveling.

Carrying the Load

Keep the forks at a height of 6 to 10 in (15.24 to 25.4 cm) above the ground to avoid potential ground hazards and carry the load low and tilted back. Remember that forklifts are very top heavy when the load is high and a bump can tip it over.

Don’t carry anything on the overhead guard.

Travel in reverse if the load blocks your forward vision, or use a spotter if there is not a clear view ahead.

Always look in the direction of travel, keep your arms and legs inside the forklift, and never reach through the mast to adjust the load.

Do not raise or lower the load while moving, exercise caution on wet surfaces, and travel at an appropriate speed.


If unloading onto a truck, before driving straight in, make sure the rear wheels of the truck are chocked, the brakes are locked, and the dock plate is secure and won’t move; then drive in, position the load, tilt it forward, and release it.

If you are unloading onto a stack:

  1. Position the forklift properly before lifting the forks.
  2. Check for overhead clearance before raising the load and raise and position the load to the correct height of about 2 in (5.08 cm) above the stack.
  3. Move the load slowly into position and allow for 2 to 3 in (5.08 to 7.62 cm) of clearance at the sides and back of the load.
  4. Tilt the load forward and then lower it, level the forks so they are no longer tilted, and pull the forks back slowly.
  5. Sound the alarm and back up slowly, looking over your shoulder.
  6. When clear, stop the forklift and lower the forks to a height of about 6 to 8 in (15.24 to 20.32 cm) off the ground.

COPYRIGHT ©2005, ISO Services Properties, Inc.