There are thousands of forklift accidents each year and an average of 85 forklift-related fatalities annually in the United States. Forklift drivers, floor managers, pedestrians, and loading dock employees—everyone in the warehouse is responsible for safety. Increase forklift safety in your facility by considering these important items, from floor marking requirements to training, safety procedures to storage rules.
1) Improve Visibility with Reflective Markings
Reflective tape and markings alert forklift drivers to hazards in low-light conditions. They improve the driver’s ability to spot dangers, which can help decrease reaction time and prevent accidents. Apply stripes of reflective tape to the sides and backs of forklifts and machinery or bumpers to increase visibility for other forklift operators and warehouse employees. These reflective markings make it easier to spot hazards, even in dim areas. Additionally, use reflective markings to:
- Mark shelf corners to prevent damage
- Make edges of loading docks easier to spot
- Apply around posts for better visibility
- Bring attention to changes in elevation
2) Separate Forklift and Pedestrian Traffic
Keeping foot traffic out of forklift zones keeps pedestrians safe. While forklift operators must always remain alert regardless of pedestrian traffic, this added layer of protection improves overall safety in the facility. Some ways to separate vehicular and foot traffic include:
- Crosswalk markings and signs
- Floor markings to identify traffic lanes by type
- Arrow- or footprint-shaped floor markers to designate one-way traffic flow
- Physical barriers and protective railings
- No-traffic safety zone between separate travel lanes
3) Ensure Forklift Operators Are Properly Trained
Forklift drivers must be over 18 years of age, and they must be properly trained and certified (OSHA 1910.178(l)(6)) with a certification renewal every three years. This does not replace the onsite training that’s required to ensure safety. Forklift operators must follow all safety requirements set forth by OSHA and other safety standards. Facility-specific regulations can further improve safety.
Choose floor signs that reinforce certification and refresher training. For example, signs with text and graphics can remind forklift drivers to remain alert at all times. Display notices that music or headphone use can be distracting or interfere with the ability to hear what’s going on within the facility. If an alarm or horn sounds and headphones are in use, the important notice may be missed. Similarly, cell phone use is a distraction and forklift operators should not use their phones while operating the vehicle. Training and signage work together to reinforce important forklift safety considerations.
4) Pedestrians Need Training, Too
Include forklift safety as part of regular staff training to promote pedestrian safety, as well. Pedestrians must be aware of the hazards, and the appropriate steps that improve everyone’s safety. Employees should ensure they are not distracted by cell phones, music, or conversation while walking through areas where forklift traffic is present. Explain all signage and reiterate the importance of following cues to stop and look before continuing. Ensure all employees know who has right of way, which areas are off-limits to pedestrians, and what to do when an alarm or horn sounds or an area is cordoned off. The forklift driver is responsible for safety, but pedestrians are also expected to take precautions and act accordingly.
5) Forklift Operators Require Highly Visible Safety Gear
Make forklift drivers and pedestrians easier to spot with safety gear and clothing designed for visibility and protection. When worn by forklift operators, hard hats and high visibility safety vests improve safety. But, these safety items aren’t only for the driver. When pedestrians, loading dock staff members, floor managers, and warehouse workers wear reflective vests and other safety gear, it improves visibility and helps keep forklift operators alert and ready to react. Even if just crossing through, encourage employees to don a safety vest—especially if walking into aisles or near equipment.
6) Add Forklift Maintenance Inspection to Daily Checklists
Ensuring machinery is in proper working order before use improves overall safety. Include forklift inspection as part of daily audits to catch any hazards before they become a problem. This daily self-inspection should include looking for oil, battery, or fluid leaks, checking tire condition and pressure, testing the horn, lights, and alarms, and examining brake function, tilt control, hoist, and lowering functionality. A physical checklist can ensure the appropriate items are examined before forklift use.
7) Provide Clear Floor Markings Throughout the Facility
Visual cues are an important safety tool in industrial facilities, especially in warehouses and forklift use areas. Floor marking tape and signage help meet OSHA requirements for properly marked aisles, lanes, and traveled areas. To ensure floor markings stick in heavily trafficked warehouse zones, choose industrial floor marking tape rated to withstand forklift traffic, machinery, and pallet dragging. Our Superior Mark® Floor Marking Tape features patented beveled edges so it lasts. Choose custom-printed messages to meet facility-specific safety goals.
OSHA requires that aisles are designated with markings that are at least two inches wide. Additionally, aisles must be at least three feet wider than the largest equipment used in the aisle, or at least four feet wide. Marking the width of the aisle helps prevent pallet rack damage or collision-related collapse. Floor tape helps meet OSHA standards for marking aisles.
Examples of additional floor markings for forklift safety include:
- Speed limit signage
- Right of way messages
- No pedestrian zones
- Areas where a spotter is recommended for blind turns
- Signage to label forklift parking areas
- “Do Not Block” messaging to keep exits and egress clear
Forklift safety requires cooperation from all levels, from the forklift driver and employees who work in the warehouse to the management team. Proper certification and refresher courses keep forklift operators up to date on the best practices, but you must also ensure your location follows safety requirements and regulations. For more tips on warehouse safety, explore our Resource Center.