Forklifts

Risks to safety

While forklifts offer a practical solution for handling materials, they can cause serious workplace injuries and deaths.

Forklifts must be manoeuvrable so they are designed to be compact. But when carrying loads, they can become unstable under certain circumstances. Fully laden, a standard two tonne forklift can weigh approximately five tonnes in total.

Even at low speeds, forklifts can cause serious injuries and fatalities. It’s not just the worker using the forklift who can be injured; other workers nearby can be struck by a forklift or its load.

PCBU responsibilities

If you’re a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you must manage the hazards associated with forklifts in the workplace.

This includes ensuring your workers are trained in the safe operation of the forklift, and ensuring a safe working environment through control measures such as traffic management.

Safe Work Australia’s General guide for industrial lift trucks goes into thorough detail about choosing the right forklift for your workplace, risk assessment, safe operating, loads, work platforms and boxes, lifting attachments, fuel and batteries, maintenance and more. See Resources below.

Worker responsibilities

If you’re a worker, you must follow any reasonable directions given by your employer/manager that will reduce your risk of injury. This includes following policies and safe operating procedures.

You must do a pre-start safety check every time you use a different forklift and at the beginning of each shift, as the forklift may not have been left in a safe condition by the previous operator. A checklist can help you do this; see Resources below for a sample checklist.

Make sure you wear the seatbelt (or other restraint) where fitted. Seatbelts keep you in the cab during a tip over and prevent you from being thrown from your seat.

Safe Work Australia’s General guide for industrial lift trucks goes into thorough detail about safe operating, loads, work platforms and boxes, lifting attachments, maintenance and more. See Resources below.

Licensing

A person who operates a forklift must hold a high risk work forklift licence. Training to get a high risk work licence must be completed as part of a course from a registered training organisation (RTO).

See High risk licencing for details.

Resources

WorkSafe Tasmania resources

High risk licensing

Traffic management

Other resources

Forklifts: Information sheet for owners and operators: Safe Work Australia (external link)

Forklift safety checklist: WorkSafe Victoria (external link)

General guide for industrial lift trucks: Safe Work Australia (external link)

Updated: 20th February 2020