The range of warehouse lifting equipment available to end users today can be amazing in its ingenuity and bewildering in its diversity. Despite this variety, however, there is one thing that all warehouse trucks have in common: they are designed for use indoors and on good surfaces. As a result, many of the hazards involved in warehouse work relate to taking such equipment outside or crossing even minor obstacles.

Lacking suspension or cushion tyres, these machines are vulnerable to any pothole or bump, however small. Relatively small movements or shocks resulting from uneven surfaces can unbalance the load and lead to tipping of the truck. If obstacles cannot be avoided, bridging plates or similar aids should be used and speed should be kept to a minimum. As a rule of thumb, it is often safer to cross an obstacle at a small angle, one wheel at a time, rather than head on.

The typical small wheels of a warehouse truck are fine for hard, smooth floors but will quickly get bogged down in soil – even dry clay – or other soft surfaces. Their pressure on the ground can similarly cut into thin tarmac. For the same reason, wooden flooring should always be checked for damaged or weak areas before moving the truck onto it.

Aside from the risk of tipping, rough or corrugated surfaces can cause excessive vibration which is a further hazard to the operator. In wet conditions, there is a severe danger of slips, skids and loss of control.  Use of the equipment on wet surfaces should be avoided. If this is not possible, then it is essential that operators are trained to keep the speed low, to make gentle, controlled turns and to apply brakes early and cautiously.

Good knowledge of the particular equipment’s characteristics, controls and features is vital.  For example, some machines are fitted with brakes that have just two modes: on or off. If they start to move with the brakes applied, they can be difficult or impossible to stop – especially on wet surfaces.

All of the above circumstances should be considered within the risk assessments associated with lifting operations. Suitable warning signs may be part of the risk minimisation measures. However, if any of these circumstances are encountered more than occasionally, it may be better to change the working environment or the equipment used.

Advice on workplace hazards is just one of the important subjects covered in the latest edition of the FLTA booklet Operator Safety – Warehouse Lifting Equipment. This guide, available via the Association website (, is aimed at operators of reach trucks and low level warehouse lifting equipment. Written in plain English and illustrated throughout to reinforce the important “dos and don’ts” for warehouse operators and employers, it is priced at just £3.00.

Become a safe user today

If you own or operate a fork lift truck, membership of the Association’s Safe User Group (SUG) provides you with all the relevant information you need to keep your business operating safely, legally and productively… in clear, concise terms.


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