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How to Avoid a Forklift Tip-Over

forklift tip-over

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), tip-overs are the most common accident involving forklifts. When a forklift is being improperly operated, many factors play into the reasons why it is dangerous. The physics of a load-baring lift truck, too high of speeds, and not paying attention to the surroundings can lead to incredibly hazardous situations. Tip-overs cause severe injuries and fatalities every year, and require excellent safety training to avoid them and keep workers safe. Forklift certification training is essential if you want to protect your life while on the job, whether you’re an operator or a pedestrian.

What Causes Forklift Tip-Overs?

It’s important to understand what causes tip overs in the first place. When the center of gravity is on the side of the stability triangle, it can cause the forklift to lose proper balance and tip over. This is often caused by turning a corner, carrying an unbalanced load, driving into a pothole, or driving on a sloped surface. See the diagram explaining the stability triangle here to learn more. Other reasons why tip overs occur are when the operator exceeds the load capacity of the forklift, excessive speeds are used when turning the lift, the forklift is turning on an incline or uneven surface, the lift gets too close to an edge on the floor, traveling with the load elevated too high, turning or braking too quickly with a raised load, and tilting a raised load too far forward.

There are two types of forklift tip overs; the lateral tip over and the longitudinal tip over. An example of a lateral tip over is when an operator is traveling with a load and moving from a paved warehouse to a gravel storage yard. When the forklift turns onto the gravel, the forklift may tip over to the outside of the turn. For a longitudinal tip over, it may start by an operator driving a loaded forklift down a ramp. If the load is being carried in the front of the lift and is raised too high, the forklift may tip forward as it travels down the ramp.


Avoiding Tip-Overs

The first step towards preventing forklift tip-overs is to complete a forklift certification. Only trained and experienced operators can recognize hazards and avoid deadly tip overs. Whether you already have completed training or you still need to certify to operate forklifts, there are a number of things to be aware of and practice to avoid tip overs and other accidents.


  • Never exceed the load capacity of a forklift
  • Never turn while on a ramp, either ascending or descending
  • Reduce speed when taking a turn
  • Ensure the load is facing uphill when traveling on a sloped surface
  • Keep the forks no higher than 4-6 inches above the ground when traveling
  • Avoid potholes, dips, and edges
  • Tilt the mast forward when picking up or lowering a load
  • Make sure the load is tilted backwards when traveling
  • Never brake suddenly with a raised load
  • Ensure you have enough space between the mast and an object when traveling through a doorway or underneath overhead obstructions
  • Do not load the forks beyond the maximum capacity of the truck
  • Do not move unstable loads
  • Use caution when moving oddly shaped loads that are tall or wide


Protecting Pedestrians When Operating Forklifts

When a forklift is operating in a worksite, it isn’t only the operator whose life is at risk should an accident take place. On-foot workers are at risk too. When a forklift is being driven too fast, is turning too fast, is not properly clearing corners, or is not warning others of its presence at cross aisles, a pedestrian may be caught in its path and struck or crushed by the forklift, or pinned against the lift and another fixed object. Forklift operators must never approach a worker standing against a bench or another fixed object head on, and they must sound alarms to warn others when turning a corner or entering an intersection.


Handling a Forklift Tip-Over

In the case that a forklift tip over does occur, it is important for forklift operators to stay inside the forklift and not try to jump out of the vehicle when it is tipping over. When an operator tries to flee a forklift tipping over, it most often results in serious injuries or fatalities. It may be instinctual to want to jump from a tipping vehicle and get out of the way. However, as a forklift continues into a roll, it usually accelerates rapidly and can crush or pin the worker underneath. The best thing to do if you’re inside a forklift when it starts to tip over is to make sure your seat belt is fastened, hold on tight to the steering wheel, brace your feet, lean away from the impact, and lean forward. This will help to minimize any injuries resulting from the tip over. That is the safety protocol for traditional sit-down forklifts, but standing lifts should be exited by steeping backwards out of and away from the forklift.


If you need to complete your forklift certification to be prepared to handle and prevent tip overs, check out the online, OSHA-compliant training program at



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