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Why Would a Forklift Tip-Over Happen?

find out why a forklift would tip over
Forklift tip-overs, which often result in worker injuries or even fatalities, are among the most common types of workplace forklift accidents. If the equipment isn’t operated properly or when the operator fails to recognize potentially unsafe working conditions, forklifts can become imbalanced and tip, which can lead to serious injuries, fatalities, and damages to property and equipment. 

As an employer, it’s important that your workers receive training to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to recognize and avoid forklift tip-over hazards, which will both protect your workers against accidents and shield your business from property damages and costly OSHA fines. There are several reasons lateral and longitudinal tip-overs occur, and it’s important that your workers understand the reasons, which is where the online training from (FLC) can help.


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What Causes a Forklift Tip-Over?

Forklifts are relatively stable pieces of equipment when the center of gravity is directly above the vehicle’s wheelbase. Depending on the circumstances, when forklifts tip over, they usually tip either forward or to one side. A longitudinal, or forward forklift tip over occurs when the center of gravity moves too far forward, which can happen when a lift is driven down a slope or ramp. Lateral, or sideways tip overs occur when the center of gravity shifts too far to the left or right of the wheelbase, which can happen during sharp or sudden turns.

Is a Forklift Tip-Over Likely to Happen?

A forklift can tip over any time an operator uses the machine. Fortunately, there are many precautions that forklift operators can take to reduce the risk of tip-overs, along with associated accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Here are basic precautions that operators can use to prevent a forklift from tipping over:

  • Keep the forks low to the ground; ideally, the forks should be kept about 3 to 4 in. off the ground.
  • Do not give anyone a ride on a forklift.
  • Wear a seatbelt when operating a forklift.
  • Drive a forklift at an appropriate speed; when in doubt, drive slowly and cautiously.
  • Watch for bumps and loose objects on the ground; coming into contact with them can cause an operator to lose control of the lift.
  • Avoid icy, wet, and oily surfaces.
  • Ensure the forklift is a safe distance away from workers and equipment at a jobsite.
  • Do not approach anyone on a forklift head on.

In the event of a tip-over, an operator should not jump off the lift. Instead, the operator should brace their feet, grab onto the steering wheel, and lean away. This won’t necessarily stop the lift from tipping over but will lower the operator’s risk of serious injury or death.

Despite a company’s best efforts, a forklift can tip over without notice. If a tip-over occurs at a jobsite, a business and its employees can learn from the incident. At this time, the company can enroll its forklift operators in certification training once again. This ensures that workers can review what it takes to safely operate and maintain a lift. Best of all, the training empowers employees with the knowledge and insights they need to avoid forklift tip-overs in the future.

4 Reasons Why a Forklift Can Tip Over Forwards or Backwards 

1. Carrying Loads Heavier Than Recommended Load Ratings.

A forward tip over can occur when the manufacturer’s recommended maximum load is exceeded, which can cause the lift to become imbalanced and unstable. The forklift operator must always ensure the load is both properly balanced and within the manufacturer’s recommended load weight limit.

2. Carrying a load with the mast tilting forward.

A mast tilting too far forward can cause a forklift to become unstable and result in a forward tip over. This can happen when the forklift is driven down a ramp or slope, which is why operators should drive forklifts down a ramp backwards to avoid an accident. 

3. Accelerating or braking too quickly.

Suddenly speeding up or braking too quickly can cause the center of gravity to shift and result in the forklift becoming unstable and tipping over. Weight shifts from turning a corner too sharply can also cause this kind of forklift tip over, although it will be lateral.

4. Lifting or lowering a load on a slope.

Lowering or lifting a load while working on a slope or ramp can shift the center of gravity and cause a forklift tip over. Operators need to be sure the forklift is stable whenever the equipment is operated on a slope. Drivers also need to be aware of the dangers of operating forklifts on sloped surfaces, and especially with unstable loads that can shift while being transported.

4 Causes of a Lateral Forklift Tip-Over

1. Turning too abruptly.

Turning a corner too quickly can cause the forklift’s center of gravity to shift and can cause the wheel or wheels on one side of the lift to be raised off the ground. When this happens, it’s highly unlikely that the operator will be able to recover and the forklift therefore will therefore tip.

2. Turning with a load that’s been raised too high.

Turning with a load that’s stacked too high up the mast can also cause a forklift tip-over accident. If the load is extended too far above the body of the lift, there’s a greater degree of moment, which affects the way the weight of the load is distributed. When a load is raised too far up the mast and exceeds the maximum range of movement, the result is a tip-over. 

3. Turning while driving on an incline.

Regardless of the speed, driving a forklift on a slope or incline can be dangerous when in the hands of an untrained or inexperienced operator. When turned too quickly, the forces of gravity can shift the weight of the load and cause the forklift to become unstable and tip over. 

4. Driving over potholes or other obstacles.

Although forklifts are sturdily built machines, they’re not invincible. Hitting a pothole or other obstacle while driving over rough terrain can cause the forklift to become imbalanced and tip over.

Can a Forklift Tip-Over Without a Load?

A forklift can become unstable, even if it does not have a load. For example, if a driver turns too fast around a sharp curve, their lift can tip. Or, if a driver is traveling on an unbalanced surface, their lift can tip if it shifts too far in one direction. 


Regardless of whether it’s forward or sideways, forklift tip overs can result in disaster, including property and equipment damage, serious worker injuries, and even fatalities. There are, however, safety protocols and procedures that can reduce the risks of forklift tip-overs. 

Although jumping from a tipping forklift may seem like a good idea at the time, doing so can result in a worker being pinned under the lift and crushed. Operators need to be sure their seat belts are securely fastened at all times – once a tip-over starts, it’s too late. The proper forklift tip-over procedure is for operators to keep their hands firmly on the steering wheel and brace themselves in the opposite direction of the fall, which can help prevent or lessen injuries.

For more ways to avoid forklift tip overs, click here.

Why Don’t Forklifts Tip When You’re Carrying a Heavy Load?

If a forklift is carrying a heavy load, it won’t necessarily tip. This is due to the fact that the forklift’s load serves as a counterbalance. As long as the lift’s center of gravity remains in the wheelbase, the machine won’t tip, regardless of whether it’s being used to carry a heavy load. 

Want to Prevent Forklift Tip-Overs? Why Forklift Certification Training Is Key

Although there are several ways of preventing forklift tip-overs in the workplace, each of them starts with OSHA-approved forklift operator training and certification, such as is offered by

Enroll Your Workers in FLC’s OSHA-Approved Forklift Certification Training Today

FLC’s online training can be completed in about an hour and will teach your employees how to properly and safely use forklifts and avoid workplace accidents. When your workers complete our training, they will be able to avoid tip-overs and other forklift accidents that result in injuries by recognizing and avoiding workplace hazards. Proper training can also help prevent expensive OSHA fines, as well as costly repairs for property and equipment damage. 

If you would like more information about FLC’s online training and certification programs or have questions about avoiding forklift tip-overs in the workplace, call (888) 278-8896 to speak with one of our forklift safety consultants, or click here to contact us online.

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