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How to Operate a Forklift: Basics, Tips, and Necessary Procedures

The average forklift driver earns about $15 an hour, depending upon location and experience level.

If you’ve been wanting to learn how to operate a forklift but don’t know where to get started, we’ve developed this complete guide with forklift basics, tips, and necessary procedures for you to gain knowledge and confidence while you’re starting your journey. 

So, if you’ve been wanting to learn about how to safely drive a forklift, this article is sure to lead you in the right direction. Let’s get started! 

Tips on How to Operate a Forklift

Even if you already have your forklift license, learning how to safely operate a forklift comes with knowledge and experience. 

1. Make Sure You’re Qualified

While this may seem like a very basic tip, not everyone knows that you need an operating license to be able to drive a forklift. 

Before you begin operating a forklift, make sure that you have an operating license and that you’ve been properly trained! You can take forklift certification classes online. Click here to learn more.

2. Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Making sure that you’re wearing the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) while operating a forklift is essential. Most employers require that a forklift operator wear safety shoes, a hard hat, and jackets that have high visibility.

However, depending upon what types of materials you’re working with, your employer also may require employees to wear gloves. Without gloves, any greasy material that gets on your hands will transfer over to the controls on the forklift.

In order to maintain proper control over a forklift, avoid using the machine when you have grease on your hands, as this can cause your hands to slip off of the controls, resulting in a loss of control over the machine. 

3. Examine Equipment Before Using It

Before you begin operating a forklift, make sure that you take a few minutes to do a route check of the machine before you being using it. When examining the machine, make sure to check for:

  • That the steering is working
  • That all of the controls are working
  • All of the warning devices are properly functioning
  • That the brakes are effectively working
  • That the tires are filled with the right amount of pressure and aren’t punctured in any way

If you notice that there is damage to any parts of the forklift, it’s imperative that you notify your management. Once notifying management, the forklift should not be operated until the damages to the forklift have been fixed. 

4. Safely Start Up the Forklift

To ensure that you’re safely using the equipment, make sure that you enter the machine properly. In order to do so, make sure to use the steps and hand grabs when looking to seat yourself on the forklift. 

Before you start the machine, make sure that you’re sitting forward enough to be able to reach all of the controls on the machine and that you’re able to see the mirrors. If not, adjust the height of the seat to ensure you can comfortably see out of mirrors and that you can reach the controllers.

5. Observe Your Environment

Distracted driving while on a forklift is extremely dangerous. While you’re driving on the forklift,, make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings, and that you’re following along with any rules or guidelines that your employer has.

Ensure that you’re careful while you’re operating a forklift near the edge of a ramp or near the edge of a loading dock; this is because the forklifts can easily tip over when too close to the edge. In order to prevent this, keep an eye on your surroundings, and make sure that you don’t drive too close to the edge. 

6. Watch Your Speed

While speeding may not seem like contributing factor to creating an unsafe working environment, turning while you’re speeding greatly increases your chances of tipping over. 

Going the speed limit will also help to ensure that you’re also able to stop your machine slowly, which also minimizes the chances of your machine tipping over. 

7. Make Sure You’re Not Overloaded

Before using, make sure that you know the maximum weight capacity of your forklift. If you do end up overloading the forklift, the rear tires on the forklift can be raised off of the ground, which would result in the forklift tipping over. 

8. Check to Make Sure Your Load Is Evenly Distributed

Even if you’ve taken the steps to ensure that your forklift isn’t overloaded, you also need to take the time to make sure that your load is evenly distributed. If you’ve found that your load is uneven, do not lift or adjust the load unless you know that both forks are entirely under the load.

In addition, you want to make sure that you don’t lift a load with one fork. Instead, you should use skids and palettes that can hold the weight of the load! Just make sure that you’re not using rotten, damaged, or deformed palettes while you’re holding your load. 

9. Do Not Drive on Soft or Wet Ground

When you’re driving, make sure that you’re not driving over wet or soft ground. You’ll want to make sure that you avoid driving over this type of ground at all costs, as the weight of the forklift will easily sink into the soft terrain, increasing the chances of the forklift turning over. 

Wrapping Things Up

We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning more about how to operate a forklift! While operating this machine may seem intimidating, getting a forklift license and being safely trained to operate this machine will help you to gain confidence as a driver. 

Looking to learn more about how to develop your skills as an employee? Come check out the training and coaching section of our blog!