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Forklift Safety

Hazard, Risk and Remedy information adapted from Safe Work Australia material. Definition of ‘Forklift’ may not represent a legal definition.

Forklifts or industrial lift trucks are used to lift, stack and transfer loads in warehouses, factories, shipping yards, freight terminals and other workplaces right across Australia.

A forklift is a powered industrial truck equipped with lifting media made up of a mast and elevating load carriage to which a pair of fork arms or other arms that can be raised 900 mm or more off the ground. Pedestrian operated forklift trucks do not require a high-risk-work (HRW) licence.

The human and financial cost of forklift-related incidents for workers, industry and the community is substantial.


As forklifts must be manoeuvrable they are designed to be compact. But when carrying loads they can become unstable under certain circumstances. Fully laden, a standard two tonne forklift can weigh approximately five tonnes in total. With lower stability and greater manoeuvrability combined with uncontrolled traffic areas in workplaces you’ll understand why forklifts are involved in so many incidents. Even at low speeds, forklifts can cause serious injuries and fatalities.

It’s not just the worker using the forklift who can be injured—pedestrians can be struck by a forklift or its load.


To operate a forklift in workplaces regulated by the Commonwealth Work, Health and Safety legislation you must have a high risk work licence or be closely supervised while you are getting a high risk work licence. A high risk work licence requires you to be first trained by a Registered Training Organisation. Check with your local workplace safety authority (see Comcare’s Forklift Safety documentation below) for requirements in your state or territory.

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) are responsible for:

  • A safe work environment
  • Safe systems of work
  • Safe and well-maintained machinery
  • Proper information, training and supervision.

Combined with the principles of hazard management (see page 21 of Comcare’s Forklift Safety documentation linked below) and an effective traffic management plan, these measures can help reduce the risk of forklift-related injuries.


Information SourceContents
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety RisksThis code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety.
Code of Practice - Managing Risks of Plant in the WorkplaceThis code provides practical guidance on managing health and safety risks involving plant such as forklifts
Safe Work Australia - Draft Code of Practice on Industrial Lift TrucksThis Code provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking who have management or control of industrial lift trucks in workplaces on how to manage the health and safety risks when buying, hiring, operating, maintaining and repairing industrial lift trucks. This code is voluntary guidance only and not a legislative instrument
Comcare – Forklift safety, reducing the risksFact sheet on reducing risks involving forklift activities
UK Health & Safety Executive - Managing lift trucksGeneral information on managing risks involving forklifts


Information sourceWhat it contains
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notificationHelps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act
Page last updated: 10 May 2019