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What is the number one cause of forklift accidents?

Updated: Jun 10

Forklifts can be one of the most dangerous machines in the workplace.

Although forklifts are a practical and useful tool for moving heavy loads, they cause many workplace injuries and deaths each year in Australia.

Tipping over is the biggest danger when operating a forklift - and it can happen easily.

As forklifts are compact and highly manoeuvrable they can become unstable, especially when carrying heavy loads. But forklifts can tip over even without a load. That's right! According to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, most tip over accidents involve unloaded forklifts. See more in the WorkSafe Queensland Forklift Safety Guide.

Sideways tip overs can occur when the centre of gravity shifts too far the the left or right of the wheelbase - such as during sharp or sudden turns.

Forward tip overs happen when the centre of gravity shifts too far forward - especially when when braking or accelerating down a slope.

The most common reason that forklifts tip over, include:


Like in cars, speed kills. Operating a fully loaded forklift at speed, makes it harder to control, and increases the chance of tipping over. When carrying a load, forklifts can weigh over twice what they normally weigh.

Always operate a forklift at a steady speed, brake cautiously, and never exceed speed limits posted in your workplace.

Sudden and abrupt turns

Turning too quickly with a full load, can cause the centre of gravity to shift to one side and cause the forklift to tip over.

Always turn slowly when operating a forklift

Braking too hard

Accelerating or braking too suddenly can shift the forklift's centre of gravity resulting in the forklift tipping over.

Always brake gradually and come to a soft stop

Driving with the load raised off the ground

The higher a load is raised on a forklift mast, the more unstable it becomes. Even a small shift in the load can affect the centre of gravity can make the forklift unbalanced when the load is raised

Always drive with the load at axel height, or adequate fork tyne clearance for the ground surface conditions

Turning or raising/lowering a load while on a slope

If you try and turn while driving up or down and incline, the the centre of gravity will be affected and may cause the forklift to tip over or fall off the slope. Similarly, raising or lowering a load while on a slope, can cause the centre of gravity to shift and result in the forklift tipping over.

Never turn on a slope or lift/lower loads on a slope

Carrying uneven loads

If you have an unevenly distributed load, the forklift can easily tip over. If the load is poorly or unevenly stacked, the weight on one side may be heavier than the other and make the forklift unstable.

Always distribute the load evenly across the forks, restack or repack if necessary, and ensure the heaviest part of the load is against the load backrest

Carrying loads that exceed the forklift's rated capacity

If you lift and transport too large a load, the forklift can become unbalanced and unstable.

Never exceed the manufacturer’s safe rated capacity when lifting loads - relevant load capacity information can be found on the forklift's data plate

Carrying loads with the mast tilted forwards

If the mast is tilted forward, the loads centre of gravity is moved away from the forklift and can cause it to tip over.

Always move loads with the mast slightly tilted backwards

Driving over uneven surfaces / hitting obstacles

Driving over a pothole or hitting other obstacles can disrupt the centre of gravity can cause the forklift to tip over.

Check the path of the forklift before you start using it, and make sure there are no obstacles, people, or other equipment in the area

Poorly maintained forklifts

If the forklift is not operating in optimal condition, such as bald tyres or loose brakes, it can cause the forklift to tip over.

Ensure the forklift maintenance is performed according to the manufacturers recommendations, and always to a pre-start every time you use it

And remember always be properly trained to operate a forklift! Don't become complacent!

In Queensland to operate a Forklift, you need a LF High Risk Work Licence.

Our TLILIC0003 - Licence to operate a forklift truck course provides the formal training and accredited assessment which will allow you to apply for a Queensland HRW Licence for Forklift Truck - LF.

Related courses:

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