The importance of a thorough forklift safety program

If you manage operations in the materials handling industry, you’re probably familiar with the training requirements for forklift operators, but a complete safety program requires more than just training. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) B335-15 Safety standard for lift trucks—an indispensable set of recommendations for all forklift operators in Canada—was revised this past January for the first time since 2004, and states the following clear instruction: “To be most effective, operator training should be part of a larger, comprehensive lift truck safety program.”

With the next provincial material handling inspection blitz coming up next month—from September 14 to October 23, 2015—now is the perfect time to not only review the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) regulations on the Ministry of Labour website, but also assess the efficiency of your own forklift safety program.

Ask the following 4 questions and let the answers guide the actions you might need to take in order to ensure your workplace compliance.

  1. Is your selection of forklifts based on specific safety criteria?
    Choosing the proper class and model of lift trucks should be guided by a set of criteria that recognize the particular requirements of your application and work environment. Depending on the fuel source, the type of tires and the load limits, each specific truck will have differing hazards associated to it. An employer should be especially mindful when purchasing a used forklift, as some safety features may have been altered from the original manufacturer specifications.

    The selected forklift should be suitable to the daily tasks of your operators and have the required load and reach capabilities. Other criteria include the identified hazards, the types of loads to be handled, the operating terrain, the atmospheric conditions and the layout of the workplace.

    Choosing the right type of forklift

  2. Do your forklifts operate in a safe environment?
    Evaluating the safety of your workplace in relation to your forklift operations seems like a given, but employers sometimes overlook key elements while placing too much emphasis on others. Regardless of your industry or the size of your company, be sure to implement a comprehensive list of procedures, precautions and rules to eliminate as many risk hazards as possible.

    As recommended by the CSA Standard, this includes:

    • Proper ventilation and adequate lighting
    • Acceptable noise level
    • Traffic management system, including designated and separate pedestrian routes
    • Controlled forklift speed regulations
    • Minimum side and height clearances for the safe travel of the forklifts
    • Basic ergonomic principles to avoid strain and injury
  3. Have all your forklift operators received proper training and are their skills being regularly monitored?
    When it comes to the operation of forklifts, the legislation is clear: only people who have received proper training by qualified individuals, and who have the necessary knowledge and experience, should be permitted to operate lifting equipment. All operators should follow a complete training program that incorporates theory, hands on practice, knowledge verification and practical evaluation.

    Following the last update of the CSA B335-15, a mandatory mid-term evaluation is no longer mandatory.Instead, the standard insists on training being a continuing process, rather than a task to be completed and checked off a list. Employers are reminded that they are “responsible for monitoring performance on an ongoing basis” to ensure that their operators’ skills meet the required standards. In addition, all training should be specific to the application and the workplace where the forklift will be used, and all forklift operators should “receive retraining at intervals not exceeding 3 years.”

  4. Forklift safety inspection formsDo you perform and keep documentation of your daily pre-operation inspections?
    A common violation when it comes to the use of lift trucks is the omission of a pre-operation inspection before each shift. All operators are required to perform a visual and operational inspection of the forklift to be used, including all its attachments. Not only should they know how to recognize items that need to be repaired or replaced, but they should also know the exact procedure for how to report them. The new updated CSA standard also now mentions that a documentation process should be established to keep all inspections forms on record for future reference.


These questions are just a sample of what must be asked about your lift truck safety program.

To know more about the relevant legislation from the occupational health and safety authority in your province or territory, or for more information on Liftow’s operator safety training courses, reach out to the experts at any of our offices.