Forklift tip over can be a serious hazard in the materials handling workplace, and a tip over can lead to product loss, damaged equipment, and potential injury to the forklift operator. When lift trucks tip over, they usually tip forward or to the side, and tips in each of these directions tend to happen for different reasons.

Before stepping behind the controls of a lift truck—no matter the design or size—operators should understand the basic principles of physics that keep lift trucks upright. The most important rule is simple: The truck’s center of gravity should always stay positioned inside the wheelbase. As soon as the center of gravity moves too far forward or too far to the left or right, which can happen during sharp turns, the risk of tip over increases.

Every modern lift truck comes with a rating that indicates the maximum recommended weight of a load placed on the fork or fork extensions. The rating applies no matter how the load is positioned, since the weight bearing down on the forks will always be the same, but some positions are safer than others. The risk of tip over increases if the load is too far forward on the forks, unstably balanced, or top heavy. Any of these problems can reset the truck’s center of gravity and push it outside of the wheel base.

Sideways Tip Over
Here are a few primary causes of lateral instability, which can lead to sideways tip over:
Turning a corner too quickly
Turning with a load that is raised too high on the mast
Turning the truck while navigating an incline
Driving over an obstacle or into a pothole
Lifting a load while positioned on a slope
Carrying a load that is moving or active
In each of these cases, the operator may be unable to reposition the center of gravity back between the wheels where it belongs, or the truck may experience a sudden and unexpected displacement of the center of gravity, which can initiate the tipping process.

Forward Tip Over
Here are a few primary causes of longitudinal instability, or forward tip over:
Carrying a load that exceeds the recommended rating for the truck
Lifting the load with the mast tilting forward (which may happen while the truck is positioned on an incline)
Accelerating or braking too harshly which can push the center of gravity too far forward or back
Lifting or lowering a load while on a slope
Collisions with overhead obstacles
Carrying loads that are moving or active
Again, in each of these cases, the operator may not be able to reverse a rapid shift in the truck’s center of gravity. Contact the experts at Liftow for more information on forklift operator safety, including a complete guide to our comprehensive operator training courses.