Forklift Truck Association identifies 3 important safety issues

Forklift Truck Association

Speed Limits

Excessive speed contributes to a significant number of forklift truck accidents.

Forklift trucks are not designed to travel at speed. The steering and braking characteristics are different from many other types of vehicle. When used incorrectly, especially if traveling at
speed, the truck may become unstable and shed its load, or even turn over.

Questions are often asked about maximum speeds. It is not possible to be specific. Different operations may mean that different limits should be used – 3 mph in racking – 5 mph in transit aisles – 10 mph in the yard. This will vary from business to business and location to location

The following action may be considered.

  • Carry out a risk assessment and determine the maximum speed(s) to be used.
  • Communicate this to the operators and use signs where appropriate.
  • Ensure the limits are enforced by managers and supervisors.
  • Have a sound system of sanctions. (This is such an important issue that a system such as “three strikes and you are out” could be considered.

There is equipment available that can physically control the speed of forklift trucks. Some systems will allow different maximum speeds to be established in different zones. Your forklift truck service provider, or supplier, should be able to help further with this.

There is one final aspect to consider. If other employees think that the forklift trucks are being driven too fast – they probably are. Everyone should feel comfortable and safe.

Mobile Phones

There are no specific regulations that relate to the use of mobile phones whilst operating forklift trucks.

The use of a hand-held phone or similar hand-held device while driving on a public road is prohibited by law.  A workplace environment is no less hazardous than a public road. It would therefore be good practice to ban the use of a hand-held phone or similar device whilst operating a forklift truck.

It is generally considered that the use of a hands-free mobile phone can also be a distraction.
There may be an operational reason for wishing to use a hands-free mobile phone, but this is not recommended and such use should certainly be subject to risk assessment. There are special communication systems available to assist with activities such as order picking and stock taking. Mobile phones should not be used for these types of activity.

It would be good practice to ban the use of a hands-free mobile phone for personal use whilst operating a fork lift truck.

Working Platforms. The use of non-integrated working platforms on forklift trucks requires suitable communication between the operator of the forklift truck and the persons on the working platform. The method of communication to be used will form part of the risk assessment, but it may be that the use of hands-free mobile phones in these circumstances is considered preferable to shouting, or the use of hand signals.


Damaged pallets can be a general hazard in the workplace. They are a particularly dangerous hazard for fork lift truck operators and others who work in close vicinity to the trucks. When pallets are being used with a forklift truck then they form a part of the lifting system and should be regarded with the respect that this requires.

Damaged pallets should be taken out of service as soon as the damage takes place or is seen.
Where the pallet is laden there will need to be a system in place for goods to be safely transferred to a serviceable pallet.

Pallets should only be repaired by the pallet manufacturer, his agent or a specialist pallet repairer.

Detailed information is provided in the following publication. This covers the different types of pallet available, pallet management and use, and considerations for the use of pallets with forklift trucks and other materials handling equipment. This is available from HSE Books (Telephone 01787 881165) or from the FLTA.

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