Staying Safe by Knowing Your Forklift’s Limits

Forklifts are used for lifting, stacking, or transferring loads in warehouses, factories, shipping yards and other work areas all over the globe. They are the ideal solution to handling of heavy loads effectively and efficiently. Like with any other piece of machinery though, there are hazards and risks presented when using forklifts. What is vital in avoiding serious accidents is to know your forklift’s limits.

What weight can it support?
The weight capacity of a forklift is the first thing that must be considered. Do not exceed the capacity as specified by the manufacturer as this presents serious dangers. Make sure that you load the forklift within its tolerances and limitations. It isn’t merely the weight that must be considered, but also the way the load is set onto the palette. The load should properly be centered otherwise the weight capacity of the forklift is significantly reduced.

To make sure that you do not exceed the different limitations of your machine, check the specifics stated on the machine’s load capacity plate. It will give you the necessary information you need to ensure that you operate the machine within its limits. On this plate, you will find the data defining the capacity of the unit taking into account mast heights or other attachments.

How high is it supposed to go?
The next factor to be considered is the lift height. This is very important when the task at hand is for stacking. A forklift’s weight capacity is limited by the lift height that it has to reach. For units with tall masts, the weight capacity at low lift heights is much higher than that for high elevation. Units with high masts will therefore have two different weight capacities depending on the lift height.

The terrain on which the forklift is to operate is also crucial. If the forklift needs to operate on slopes or grades, the capacity of the unit may not be the same as if operating on a flat surface. It would be best to load much less than the specified capacity when operating on inclines and other uneven terrain.

Proper training for operators

Proper operation of this type of machinery is another crucial point. The operator of your unit must be very aware of the nature of the machine. Aside from knowing the capacities of the unit, the operator must be aware of the effects of the load and how the load is positioned to the forklifts operation. He or she must be aware of how the unit reacts when manoeuvring especially while carrying a particular load. It would be wise to make sure that the operator always stays on the safe side when there are some doubts on how the load will react as it is moved.

There may be qualifications an operator must pass to be able to operate a forklift. There are some areas that require a license to operate such machinery. Check with your local workplace safety authority to make sure what their requirements and regulations may be.

Remember that improper operation of any sort of equipment is hazardous. There are risks to property and life. Make sure that the operator of your forklifts is truly capable and, preferably, familiar with the particular model which you have. If not, allow adequate time and training for the operator to familiarize himself with the nature of your particular unit.

To ensure consistently smooth and safe operations always know your forklift’s limits. You will be able to avoid unnecessary damage to your unit as well as the cargo that it is to handle. It will also ensure the safety of your personnel. Being unaware of the limitations of your equipment will, sooner or later, result to accidents that can have a very high cost.


Erin Warbrook is an ex OH&S safety officer who was charged with making sure her warehouse machinery such as forklifts, scissor lifts and access equipment were all used correctly by the team at United Forklift and Access Solutions.

About Tom Reddon

Tom has been involved in the forklift industry since 1986. He loves doing research, blogging, and speaking about forklifts. You can contact Tom on his Twitter or Google+ profiles.

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