You've heard it before, "Boy, that was a near miss!" But
when you're around forklifts, you should be thinking, "Boy,
that was a near fatality!" because the danger of working
around forklifts is so high risk. Reduce that risk by
making yourself visible to forklift drivers anytime you're
working within their travel zone.
Above: video on pedestrians avoiding forklift
A few things to know about forklifts
Forklifts weren't originally designed to transport
loads, only to lift and lower them. For this reason,
forklifts traditionally have very limited fields of clear
vision. Most of the time, a driver's field of vision is
obstructed by the mast structure of the lift, by the load
itself, or by dusty, or misty driving conditions.
Additionally, drivers are often focused on load stability
and making sure it arrives in one piece.
So it's your job to make yourself visible to
How to be more visible
Follow basic rules of engagement and be aware of the
driver's visual limitations.
Make eye-to-eye contact with the forklift driver
before proceeding into his traffic path. Confirm the
driver sees you by waiting until he acknowledges your
eye contact in some way. Once you receive that
acknowledgment, try to stay within the driver's field
of vision until you are clear of his path. That means
crossing far enough in front of him that you aren't
hidden from his view by the fork mechanism or the load.
He needs to know you have cleared his path before he
can safely proceed.
Understand equipment limitations by knowing that
forklifts have long stopping distances because of their
weight and size. They also have limited maneuverability
when driven in reverse, due mainly to the position the
driver must operate from when in reverse. Also be aware
of vision limitations due to the size of the load, the
position of the lift mechanism, the mast thickness, and
how clean the windscreen is.
Understand that turning forklifts present special
dangers due to the wide arc the outer edge of the load
travels in and the speed that edge travels at.
Forklifts do not turn like cars. The turning radius is
much sharper and parts of the forklift will jut outside
the turning arc as the forklift moves. Forklifts may
not be equipped with horns to warn they are approaching
an intersection, and backup beepers may not be
Never assume a driver can see you. Stay in marked
pedestrian lanes and crosswalks to prevent being hit by
a forklift. Obey traffic signals such as traffic lights
or motion detector systems. Check the view in wide
angle mirrors mounted at aisle ends and blind corners
to see oncoming traffic. Adhere to pedestrian safety
gate usage – never take shortcuts or climb through
Yield the right of way unless you are sure the
driver has seen you and stopped the forklift so you can
cross. Remember that even if the fork lift manages to
stop, his load may not. Keep a safe distance from any
forklift and expect one to appear anytime you approach
a blind intersection. Stop, look and listen before
Wear high visibility clothing to make it easier for
the forklift driver to see you. Reflective strips or
brightly colored clothing makes you stand out from the
background, especially in low light. Always wear a hard
hat when working in lift and load zones. Loads can
become unbalanced and fall unexpectedly.
By following each of these common sense rules, you will
make yourself more visible to forklift drivers and avoid
becoming a "near-fatality".