How to improve forklift truck safety in the workplace

Forklift truck and driver being operated in a warehouse aisle

Improving forklift safety in the workplace is essential to protect workers and ensure compliance with health and safety standards. This article explores practical steps employers can take to enhance forklift operation safety, from implementing rigorous training programs to ensuring proper maintenance and establishing clear safety procedures.

Employer fined £40,000 in 2023

In July 2023, a company was convicted for violating workplace health and safety regulations, resulting in a £40,000 fine and additional costs.

The conviction resulted from a self-employed delivery driver sustained serious injuries, including multiple leg fractures and a dislocated ankle, when he was injured in a forklift accident at a printing company's premises in March 2022.

The 53-year-old victim required an air ambulance, extensive hospital treatment, and ongoing medical care, preventing his return to work.

Discussing the case, HSE inspector Matthew Shepherd said: “The company had failed to implement a safe system of work for its loading and unloading activities thereby exposing delivery drivers, such as [the claimant], to the risk of being struck by the forklift truck conducting the unloading operation."

Ensuring forklift safety

Forklifts are vital to productivity in many industrial sectors, yet they come with inherent risks. Ensuring forklift safety is a multifaceted challenge that involves operator training, equipment maintenance, and comprehensive workplace safety policies.

While forklift trucks are essential for moving substantial loads in warehouses and on construction sites, their operation can lead to severe injuries or fatalities. Accidents typically occur in crowded settings or where visibility and manoeuvrability are compromised.

Your duty of care as an employer

Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure a safe workplace by adhering to the following practices:

This duty involves the provision of thorough training for forklift operators on safe practices and emergency procedures and maintaining all forklift equipment to prevent accidents due to failure.

Active supervision of forklift operation is necessary to ensure adherence to safety protocols and to promptly address any dangerous practices. Employers should also establish and enforce specific safety measures regarding operational load and speed limits, as well as design traffic patterns to avoid workplace accidents.

Regular risk assessments are crucial for identifying potential hazards, and adherence to current health and safety regulations is a must.

Employers should review their safety procedures in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations related to forklift use, including the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 and the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSW) 1974.

Regular inspections of the forklifts and equipment should be carried out, focussing on any wear or tear, and ensuring that all safety devices are in working order.

Ensure that all safety signs, markings and labels are in place, clearly visible and in good legible condition.

Employers should also monitor the behaviour of the forklift operator, enforce safety rules and procedures, and address any safety concerns that may arise.

By taking these steps, employers not only fulfil their legal responsibilities but also contribute to a safer working environment, reducing the risk of accident

Safer site design and forklift truck traffic routes

The design of the workplace can have a significant impact on the safety of forklift operations. Employers should consider factors such as the layout of the facility, the type of materials being moved, and the traffic patterns of both forklifts and other vehicles when designing the site. Employers should also consider the accessibility of the site for individuals with disabilities, as well as the need for proper lighting, ventilation, and fire protection.

  • Forklift traffic routes - To reduce the risk of accidents, employers should establish clearly marked and designated traffic routes for forklifts. These routes should be designed to minimise the potential for collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians, and to provide ample space for safe turning and manoeuvring. Employers should also consider the flow of traffic in and around the facility, and take steps to minimise congestion and reduce the risk of collisions.
  • Segregation of pedestrian and forklift traffic - To minimise the risk of accidents, employers should establish separate traffic routes for forklifts and pedestrians. Pedestrian traffic routes should be physically separated from forklift traffic routes, and employers should provide adequate barriers and warning signs to alert pedestrians to the presence of forklifts in the area.
  • Speed limits and traffic rules - Employers should establish speed limits for forklifts and other vehicles, and should ensure that all operators follow traffic rules and regulations. This will help to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, and will help to ensure the safe and efficient movement of materials throughout the facility.
  • Warning devices and communication systems - Employers should provide forklift operators with warning devices such as horns, bells, and flashing lights, and should establish a system of communication, such as radios or intercoms, to allow operators to communicate with one another and with other employees. This will help to ensure that operators are aware of potential hazards and can take appropriate action to avoid accidents.
  • Regularly review the site design and traffic routes - Employers should regularly review the site design and traffic routes to ensure that they are still effective and safe. They should also consider any changes that have been made to the facility or the type of materials being moved, and make any necessary adjustments to the site design and traffic routes accordingly.

Key workplace legislation for forklift operations

In the UK, there are several pieces of legislation that relate to forklift trucks and forklift truck accidents. These laws aim to ensure the safety of workers and others in the vicinity of forklift trucks, and to provide guidelines for the proper use and maintenance of these vehicles. Here are a few key pieces of legislation to be aware of:

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 - This law requires that all work equipment, including forklift trucks, is maintained in a safe condition, and that it is used by properly trained and competent operators. Employers are also required to provide adequate supervision and instruction for the safe use of forklift trucks.

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSW) 1974 - This law requires that employers take all reasonably practical steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees while at work. This includes providing a safe working environment and safe equipment, as well as providing adequate training and supervision for the safe use of forklift trucks.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 - This law requires that employers conduct a risk assessment of their workplace to identify and control hazards, including those related to forklift trucks. Employers are also required to have a written health and safety policy in place, and to provide adequate training and supervision for the safe use of forklift trucks.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 - This law requires that certain types of accidents, including those involving forklift trucks, are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Employers are required to keep records of accidents and incidents, and to report any accidents that result in death, serious injury or dangerous occurrence.

When to report forklift truck accidents

Forklift truck accidents must be reported in a timely manner to ensure the safety of all employees and to comply with legal requirements. Here are a few key times when forklift truck accidents should be reported:

Immediately after the accident - If an accident occurs, it should be reported immediately to the supervisor or safety officer, so that appropriate action can be taken to provide medical aid, secure the accident scene and initiate an investigation.

When a person is injured - Any accident that results in an injury, no matter how minor, should be reported. This includes injuries to the operator of the forklift, as well as injuries to other employees or members of the public.

When damage to equipment or property occurs - Any accident that results in damage to equipment or property should be reported, regardless of whether there are any injuries.

Within a specific time frame - In the UK, employers are required to report certain types of accidents, including those that result in death, serious injury or an incapacitation for more than seven days, to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or Local Authority under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

Internal and External Reports - Employers should have an internal reporting system for all accidents, near-misses or hazards and must report certain accidents to the HSE or Local Authority.

Employers should have clear policies and procedures in place for reporting forklift truck accidents, and to train all employees on how and when to report accidents. Accidents should be investigated promptly, and any necessary corrective actions should be taken to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.

Fatal forklift truck accidents

Forklift truck accidents can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences. Fatal forklift truck accidents can occur due to a variety of factors, including operator error, equipment malfunction, and inadequate training or supervision. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding fatal forklift truck accidents:

Employers' legal requirements - If a fatal forklift truck accident occurs, there are legal requirements that must be met. Employers are obligated to report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a police investigation may be conducted.

The inquest - If a death occurs, an inquest will be held to determine the cause of death and to identify any parties that may be held responsible. The inquest will be conducted by a coroner, who will hear evidence and make findings about the cause of death.

Compensation - If a fatal forklift truck accident occurs, the family or dependants of the deceased may be able to claim compensation for their loss. This may include compensation for funeral expenses, loss of income, and other expenses related to the death.

Investigation - The HSE may conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident and whether there were any violations of health and safety regulations. The investigation will also identify any corrective action that needs to be taken to prevent future accidents.

Criminal charges - If the accident was due to gross negligence, criminal charges may be pressed against the employer or the forklift operator.

A fatal forklift truck accident will have a devastating impact on the family and loved ones of the deceased. Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that the working environment is safe for all employees. In the aftermath of a serious accident, an employer must take all reasonable steps to ensure the causes of the accident are fully understood and to prevent similar incidents in future.

Responding to forklift accidents

In the event of an accident, immediate action is essential. Here, we provide a step-by-step guide on what to do following a forklift accident, from seeking medical attention to gathering evidence and reporting the incident, as well as the importance of consulting with a solicitor for compensation claims.


Improving forklift safety is not just a compliance issue but a critical commitment to worker welfare. With the right precautions and readiness to act post-accident, the workplace can be a safer environment for everyone involved with or around forklift operations.

Chris Salmon, Director

Chris Salmon, Director