Forklift trucks can be dangerous if they are not operated with care, and it is essential that poor standards of operation are kept to an absolute minimum. According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there were 23 deaths and approximately 500 non-fatal injuries resulting from vehicular collisions in workplaces in 2014-2015.

To help you to keep your driving level sharp, we’ve put together our list of the top 10 forklift mistakes and how you can avoid them:

Not knowing your forklift's load capacity – Carrying a load that is too heavy is a sure-fire way of making your vehicle unstable. Be aware of your forklift’s capacity before you begin to operate it by looking at the data plate found on the truck. The plate should contain all of the relevant information and should not be tampered with in any way. If you find a plate that has been altered or obscured, you should speak to your employer.

Not being aware of your route – If you are moving through a workplace that has a complex layout or has a particularly dynamic environment, make sure you are familiar with any obstacles that may cause problems on your route. Look for any narrow passages or areas where there may be movement that could hinder your progress. If in doubt about your route, wait or move in a safer direction.

Operating with an unsecured load – Depending on the items you are carrying, you might have more difficulty than usual when securing your load. For example, a pallet is flat and quite easy to secure, whereas something with an odd or unsymmetrical shape can be more of a challenge. Take extra care when moving objects that could be prone to toppling or affecting your manoeuvrability.  

No communication with workers around you – Warehouses can be very busy environments, and with so many people trying to accomplish their own tasks, it is important to maintain a high level of communication. Letting people know what you are doing and where you plan to go can help them to be mindful of your operations. Likewise, if you are not sure where a fellow member of staff plans to move, don’t get too wrapped up in your task to ask them.

Slipping on entry or exit from the forklift – Although you or your workers may be attentive drivers, injuries don’t always occur during operation of the machinery. Slips and trips are the most common cause of workplace injury according to HSE figures, so you need to take extra care in the elevated environment of forklift controls. Make sure you are wearing suitable footwear that is not slick with any substances before using the machinery.

Inadequate battery and hydraulic fluid levels – Without an adequately charged battery or appropriate levels of hydraulic fluids, you will not be able to complete your job, and stopping partway could prove to be dangerous. Consult the user manual or tell your employer if this is the case.

Operating a truck that hasn’t been inspected – Forklifts can be dangerous if not subjected to stringent inspections, and you have responsibility to ensure the machinery is up to snuff. Vehicles must undergo thorough examinations to ensure they comply with PUWER 98 and LOLER 98 regulations in the UK. There are forklift specialists, like Impact Handling, that can carry out essential servicing and provide certificates of thorough examination to get your vehicle moving again as soon as possible. Let your employer know if you think that your truck is overdue an inspection.

Speeding with your forklift – Moving at a speed that is improper for your vehicle or environment is a common cause of accidents in the workplace. Pay attention to any speed limits or speed bumps, and whether your forklift’s speed is limited mechanically.

Parking incorrectly – Safety does not end when you exit the truck. Park your vehicle in authorised areas only, where other employees will expect to find stationary forklifts. Remember to lower the fork to the floor, set the direction controls to neutral, lower the parking brake and turn the ignition off.  

Misuse of vehicles – As we have discussed, forklifts can be dangerous vehicles if not operated with care and responsibility. Resist any temptation to use forklift trucks for anything other than their specified purpose, no matter what the situation dictates.

By watching out for these 10 forklift faults and being aware of how you can avoid them, you can look forward to a successful experience with these useful vehicles.