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Common Bad Habits of Forklift Operators and How to Stop Them

Common Bad Habits of Forklift Operators and How to Stop Them

Forklift operators (and warehouse workers in general) are some of the hardest working and most responsible individuals in the materials handling world. They often put in long, exhausting hours, maintain difficult physical positions for extended periods and are called upon to make quick decisions to avoid collisions, product loss and other expensive and sometimes tragic incidents. 

But even the best forklift operators sometimes make mistakes and have off-days. And not all operators are quite ready for the lift trucks they’re asked to handle. Here are a few bad habits and problems that can work their way into any operator’s routine and should be noticed and corrected before they become ingrained.


If your operators are rushing through tasks to meet deadlines or quotas, something is wrong. And the problem lies with supervisors and workplace policies, not with the operators. Slow, controlled speeds are vital on inclines, around sharp turns and while carrying loads. Controlled speed is non-negotiable in wet weather, under poor visibility conditions or while navigating unusual situations. It’s unconscionable to push operators to move faster than safety allows, and if your operators are doing this out of habit, it’s time for those habits to change.

Lack of situational awareness and poor safety culture

Operators sometimes fail to complete regular preflight equipment checks when they aren’t required to and workplace risks are generally low. For the same reasons, some operators don’t adequately look behind them while backing up. Some neglect safety restraints, and some don’t use always use signals properly. Usually this happens when workers assume the risks around them are low (why use your signal if there’s probably nobody there to see it?) and they won’t be held accountable for cutting corners. But this is how dangerous habits take root.

Training issues

As a general part of your workplace safety culture, workers should recognize when they aren’t certified or qualified to operate certain equipment, and they should be encouraged to speak up before being placed behind the controls. Respect for proper training and certification starts from the ground up. Set a good example and hire employees who are already trained or are prepared to receive the necessary training while on the job.


Sometimes even when operators recognize a clear safety violation (such as standing or riding on the fork of a lift truck), they break the rule anyway if they believe the conditions are safe to do so. But the conditions for certain types of behavior are never safe or appropriate, and these rules should be taken seriously. Encourage operators to hold each other accountable, even when safety violations appear to be minor.


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Michelle Catapang - December 2, 2020

Thank you for sharing this article. Easy to understand and well-detailed.

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