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21 Items to Check Before Operating a Forklift

Forklifts, whether all-terrain or used inside a warehouse, can pose risks for operators and people working near the vehicles if not properly controlled during operations and while parked or idled. Specific safety protocols must be followed when operating a forklift in order to ensure safety of the operator and nearby workers.

Forklift_TruckThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that all forklifts be examined at least once a day before being placed in service. This includes operator-owned forklifts as well as rental forklifts.

The operator should conduct a visual pre-check with the key off and then perform an operational check with the engine running. The forklift should not be placed in service if the inspection shows that the vehicle may not be safe to operate.

Before starting the engine, check:

  • Fluid levels: oil, water, hydraulic fluid and brake reservoir
  • For leaks and cracks in hydraulic hoses and mast chains
  • Tire conditions, including pressure and for any gouges
  • Fork conditions, including the top clip retaining pin and heel
  • Load backrest extension
  • Finger guards
  • Safety decals and name plates, ensuring that they are in place and legible
  • For the operator manual
  • To be certain all safety devices, including the seatbelt, are working properly

After completing the pre-inspection, climb into the vehicle, buckle the seat belt, turn on the engine and inspect:

  • Accelerator linkage
  • Inch control
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Drive control – forward and reverse
  • Tilt control – back and forward
  • Attachment control
  • Hoist and lower control
  • Horn
  • Lights
  • Back-up alarm
  • Hour meter

After completing the inspection, begin operating the equipment.

When operating the equipment the following safety measures should followed:

  • When operating on inclines, the load should always be on the uphill side of the incline. Drive forward when going up the incline, and drive backward going down the incline.
  • When traveling without a load on the forks, keep the forks about four to six inches off the ground or floor.
  • Never allow anyone to walk underneath a raised load.
  • Stop at all blind corners to check for other traffic in the area. This includes other forklifts and pedestrians. Honk your horn and look before proceeding.
  • When carrying a tall load that blocks forward vision, drive in reverse and turn your head to see where you are going.
  • When operating around other forklifts, maintain a three-forklift length distance between other forklifts. Never attempt to pass another forklift.
  • Never drive a forklift to a person who is turned away from you. They may be unaware that the forklift is behind them, could back into the load or forks, and be injured.

Neff Rental delivers a variety of all-terrain, four-wheel-drive, straight mast and industrial forklifts to its customers, and provides 24/7 service to ensure the vehicle’s operational reliability. For more information about Neff Rental and forklift availability for your next project, visit, or call 888-709-NEFF.

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