Stanford University

Forklift Safety

Stanford aims to minimize hazards associated with forklifts through the use of protective devices, pre-use inspections, safe operating procedures, and employee training and certification. Employees that are required to operate forklifts, walk behind lifts, and telehandlers must complete training once every one to three years based on the department.

This section applies to Stanford University employees who work with forklifts and other powered or non-powered industrial trucks or lifts, or are responsible for their operations. These requirements do not apply to compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas operated industrial trucks, farm vehicles, or vehicles intended primarily for earthmoving or over-the-road hauling.

The section provides guidance on:

  • Cal/OSHA operating rules for industrial trucks (for local supervisors)
  • Daily pre-operational check document (for local supervisors)
  • Assisting local supervisors with appropriate forklift selection
  • Ensuring program elements are up to date, per Cal/OSHA requirements
  • Forklift safety training (Powerpoint and video)
  • Hands-on forklift certification
  1. Supervisors

    Supervisors are responsible for:

    • Ensuring that employees required to use forklifts are trained upon initial assignment, and annually thereafter
    • Ensuring that employees required to use forklifts have a valid California driver’s license
    • Evaluating the performance of forklift operators to ensure that they comply with safety rules, including daily pre-use forklift inspections
    • Ensuring that forklifts under their control are approved for the environment in which they are used
    • Ensuring that forklifts are equipped with applicable safety equipment (e.g. flashing lights, audible alarms, etc.), as required by the operating environment


    Forklift operators are responsible for:

    • Operating forklifts safely
    • Attending required training
    • Conducting daily pre-use forklift inspections
    • Having a valid California driver’s license
    • Notifying their supervisor if they are unfamiliar with a load or believe a load is not safe to lift, or believe an environment is not safe to enter
    • Informing supervisors of any safety-related problems involving forklifts

    Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)

    EH&S is responsible for:

    • Providing training to employees involved in forklift operations
    • Analyzing accidents involving forklifts, as appropriate
    • Selecting and approving designations for forklifts used indoors or in hazardous areas
    • Sampling and approving the indoor work environment created by internal combustion engine-powered forklifts

Hazard Prevention and Control
  1. General

    • The design of all forklifts shall comply with the applicable standard and shall be labeled as such.
    • Name plates, model number, type designation, and load capacity shall be legible.
    • Forklifts equipped with special lifting attachments shall be marked, describing the attachment and any related capacity modifications.
    • Major modifications and structural changes to forklifts shall be approved by the manufacturer, or constructed in accordance with recognized good engineering principles, and the capacity, operation, and instruction plates shall be changed accordingly.

    Mandatory equipment

    Forklifts must be equipped with certain mandatory features. In addition, special equipment may be required for certain operations (e.g. shear or brush deflector guards, where operators are subjected to falling trees or brush). Contact EH&S to determine if special equipment is necessary. Mandatory features include:

    • Seat belts
    • Overhead protection, to guard the operator from falling objects
    • Manufacturer’s capacity plate, including the truck’s maximum rated capacity under normal conditions and with special attachments
    • Brakes
    • Warning device (e.g. horn)

    Pre-use inspection

    The operator shall conduct a pre-use inspection at the start of each work shift during which the forklift will be used, using the Forklift Pre-Shift Inspection Form.

    If the operator finds any malfunctions or defects during the inspection, the operator shall notify the supervisor that the vehicle is not safe to use, and the forklift shall not be used until it passes inspection.

    Rules for operators

    The following rules apply to all operators and shall be posted in the work area.


    • Only authorized drivers are permitted to operate forklifts.
    • Operate forklifts only in designated areas with adequate ventilation.
    • Do not operate the forklift if there is a leak in the fuel system.
    • Do not stand, pass, or work under raised forks.
    • Do not use a forklift to tow or push other vehicles or equipment.

    Driving the forklift

    • Always wear seatbelts.
    • Do not engage in stunt driving or horseplay.
    • Do not allow employees to ride on forks.
    • Do not carry passengers, except where seats are provided.
    • Keep arms, legs, and other body parts inside the fork structure, except when signaling for turns or stops.
    • Do not jump from a moving vehicle.
    • Do not exceed safe speeds (5 mph indoors and 15 mph outdoors).
    • Stay at least three vehicle lengths back when following another vehicle.
    • Observe all traffic regulations.
    • Yield to pedestrians.
    • Do not pass vehicles traveling in the same direction at intersections, blind spots, or dangerous locations.
    • Slow down and sound horn at cross aisles and other areas where vision is obstructed.
    • Look in the direction of travel.
    • Do not move the vehicle until the way is clear, including overhead.
    • Do not drive the vehicle up to anyone standing in front of an object.
    • Maintain the forks as low as possible when traveling.
    • Do not exceed the floor load rating.
    • Before driving onto trucks or trailers, check the flooring for breaks or other structural weaknesses.
    • Do not drive onto trucks or trailers unless they are securely blocked or restrained and the brakes are set.
    • Maintain one tire width from the edge of elevated docks, platforms, etc.


    • Ascend and descend grades slowly.
    • When ascending or descending grades greater than 10%, drive with the load upgrade.
    • Tilt loads on grades. Raise the forks only as high as necessary to clear the road surface.
    • Operate motorized hand and hand/rider trucks on grades with the load-engaging means downgrade.

    Leaving the forklift unattended

    • When leaving the forklift unattended, lower the mast, turn off the engine, and set the brakes.
    • Block the wheels if the forklift is left on an incline.
    • Note that the engine may be left running if the operator is closer than 25 feet or within visual contact of the forklift.

    Loading and driving with loads

    • Do not exceed the forklift’s rated capacity.
    • Know the weight of the load. Do not counterweight.
    • Do not move the vehicle until the load is safe and secure.
    • If the load obstructs the view, drive in reverse.
    • Use care when tilting loads.
    • Do not tilt the load forward.
    • Limit backward tilt only to stablize the load.
    • Ensure the load is securely held or supported.
    • Take special care when carrying loads on trucks equipped with attachments.
    • If loads are lifted by two or more trucks, ensure that the total weight of the load does not exceed the combined rated lifting capacity of the trucks.


    • Do not run the forklift into an elevator, unless specifically authorized.
    • Do not exceed the capacity of the elevator.
    • Once in an elevator, shut off the power and set the brakes.
    • When entering elevators with motorized hand trucks, keep the load end forward.

    Railroad tracks

    • Cross railroad tracks diagnonally.
    • Do not park closer than 8 1/2 feet from railroad tracks.

    Opening and closing doors

    • Use only a special device attached to the truck to open and close doors.
    • Apply force parallel to the direction of travel of the door.
    • Ensure that the operation is in full view.
    • Ensure that employees are clear of the area.

    Indoor operations

    • For forklifts powered by internal combustion engines operated indoors, ensure adequate ventilation. Contact the IH/Safety Program for analysis of oxygen deficiency, carbon monoxide, or other atmospheric contaminants.
    • For indoor operations, electric forklifts are preferred.
    • In areas with flammable gases, use only forklifts with the appropriate classification. Contact the IH/Safety Program for forklift classification information.
    • Sound the horn when approaching intersections, pedestrians, doors, corners, or anywhere vision is blocked or impaired.

    Refueling and recharging

    • Refuel gasoline, diesel, and propane forklifts outside only.
    • Recharge electric forklift batteries in designated, well-ventilated areas.
    • Do not smoke or conduct spark-producing activities in refueling/recharging areas.
    • Keep a fire extinguisher in refueling/recharging areas.

  1. The IH/Safety Program offers forklift training quarterly. Shops or departments may arrange a training session.

    Criteria for training

    Forklift safety training shall be provided to all employees who operate forklifts.

    Contents of training

    Employees shall be trained on:

    • Pre-use forklift inspection
    • Operating rules
    • Safe refueling procedures

    Frequency of training

    • Employees shall be trained prior to initial operation of any forklift.
    • Annual refreshers are provided for forklift operators.

    Recordkeeping of training

    The supervisor shall maintain training records for at least one year.

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