Key Tips for Driving a Forklift for the First Time

Key Tips for Driving a Forklift for the First Time

Since forklifts are among the most common pieces of heavy machinery in the warehouse, they also rank among the more common causes of accidents. These accidents affect not only those operating the forklift but also people around the forklift and the merchandise they are attempting to transport. Because proper training is one of the greatest preventers of accidents, we have compiled these key tips for driving a forklift for the first time—check them out to make your environment as safe as possible.

Before Getting in the Forklift

Wear the Right Gear

Proper attire for driving a forklift will vary depending on company policy; generally, though, it is recommended to wear long pants, gloves, brightly colored or reflective vests, hard hats, face protection, and steel-toed boots. Long pants and gloves protect your legs and hands. Keep the material flexible because you need a full range of mobility and gripping ability. Gloves and face protection help protect you from grease or chemicals exposed throughout the warehouse. Also, you run the risk of exposure to acids when working on forklift batteries. You need proper facial protection to combat the potential exposure and to avoid safety hazards. Wear hard hats and steel-toed boots to protect yourself from falling materials, either from above the forklift or from materials falling off the forklift load. The last thing you want is a broken foot, hand, or worst while working on the job.

Examine the Machine

Safe forklift operation begins before you even start the machine. If you have never operated a forklift before, it is especially important to examine the machine before driving it. Familiarizing yourself with the location of essential levers and gears such as the emergency brake will help you respond to potentially dangerous situations more quickly while driving. Getting a sense for the dimensions of the machine is also vital for first-time drivers to help them better gauge how to handle turns and movement within the factory or warehouse.

Beyond the basic layout of the machine, it’s essential to be sure that the forklift itself is fully operational. Check for obvious issues on the forklift. Are the tires flat? Is the forklift damaged or is there rear and tear on the forks and mast? It may seem like a waste of time, but examining your forklift before operating it will extend its forklift’s life and provide you and your company more uptime. The last thing you should do is check the gas and hydraulic fluids before operating. If you are driving an electric forklift, then check the battery levels. If left unchecked, you run the risk of damaging the machine and causing more downtime on your production.

Secure Your Load

Forklifts lift material all the time but managing the load and securing the capacity are essential to avoid accidents. Every forklift contains most of its weight on the back one-third of the machine. With a proper weighted load, the forklift becomes balanced. Or in other words, creates the “stability triangle.” An operator can easily drive throughout the warehouse when the forklift is balanced. However, if the load is incorrectly weighted or placed the forks improperly, then it could lead the operator to tip-over the forklift or drop the load damaging the material. Be sure to reference your machine’s carrying capacity to ensure that you are using the right tool for the job. Along with the weight, you must account for the size of the load. Be sure that the fork itself is adjusted correctly to carry the load securely. Make sure that the load is centered and secured with rope or other materials if appropriate.

Check the Area

When you are ready to drive the forklift, check the area surrounding the machine. If there are other people in the area, make sure that they are aware of where the forklift is at all times. Also, be mindful of any obstacles or objects that may be in the way, as well as any uneven or rough terrain. After checking that there is nothing behind or in front of you to hinder your intended route, make sure you have full visibility through your mirrors.

While Driving

Watch Your Speed

As much as driving a forklift is about strength, it is also about balance. As a first-time forklift driver, it’s crucial to get a sense of the machine’s stability. Driving too quickly is an easy way to cause tip-overs, especially as you make turns or go up inclines. The floor of a warehouse is also in a constant state of change. Driving at more reasonable speeds is the best way to respond to these conditions. Plus, this method of driving gives you more time to react to sudden obstacles and avoid having to make abrupt stops or turns.

Monitor Your Surroundings

Another important response to the ever-shifting nature of the warehouse is to keep an eye on your surroundings. This includes watching your mirrors and keeping your gaze pointed in the direction that you are traveling at all times. This may not be easy when you have a particularly tall load that obscures your line of sight. When driving with a tall load, you may need to drive backward.

Driving Backward

As we mentioned, there will be times when driving backward is the safer option in a forklift. Beyond when visibility is limited by your load, driving down an incline is always best done backward. Like when you’re driving forward, you should always keep your gaze pointed in the direction of travel when driving backward. If there are ever moments when you truly can’t see, there is nothing wrong with bringing someone else in to help spot you.

After Driving


When it is time to drop off your load, check one more time that it’s secure and steady enough to take the load’s weight. Be sure that you have your load lined up with its intended destination and that you are entirely stopped when you begin to lower it.


When parking a forklift, park in an authorized area to ensure you aren’t going to leave the forklift where it will get in the way or get crashed. Pick a flat area to park in. Parking the forklift on an incline can lead to the machine rolling away if left unattended. If you park on a slope, make sure that you put blocks under the tires to stop it. Before leaving the forklift, make sure that the forks have been lowered all the way.

Warehouse safety can’t happen without forklift safety, and forklift safety starts with every individual worker correctly trained to handle their machines. This one step will drastically reduce the number of accidents in and around the warehouse. To get the best quality of forklift for your warehouse or factory, check out the wide variety of used Toyota forklifts currently for sale.




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