Although the term "forklift" spans a variety of material-moving equipment, the fork truck is often associated with the term. It takes training and practice to operate a forklift safely because of rear steering, a mast obstructing the view of the driver, and numerous controls. This is especially true of operating a forklift in the tight confines of a warehouse or a building under construction. Ensuring the components of a forklift are operating correctly is another vital part of operating a forklift.

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A fork truck is often the vehicle associated with the term forklift.

Step 1

Inspect the forklift by following the forklift pre-use checklist. Mark each part of the inspection form with a pencil. If the forklift does not pass part of the inspection, report the failure immediately and tag the forklift out-of-service.

Step 2

Sit in the seat of the inspection-cleared forklift and buckle the seat. Do not operate a forklift without wearing the lift seat belt.

Step 3

Put the forklift in neutral, firmly press the brake, and turn the key to start the forklift.

Step 4

Pull the leftmost lever toward you to raise the forks off the floor 4 to 6 inches. Pull the middle lever toward you to tilt the mast toward the forklift.

Step 5

Release the parking brake and move the directional lever toward the direction you need to travel. Release the brake to start moving. If moving in reverse, make sure the back-up siren is working properly.

Step 6

Watch for pedestrians and hazards as you drive. Honk the horn when coming to intersections or when entering or exiting a building. The forks of a forklift sit low and are hard for pedestrians to see.

Step 7

Adjust the forks using the left, middle and right (If equipped) levers. Move slowly forward to lift the load. Put the forklift in neutral, set the parking brake, and inspect the load to make sure it is centered over the forks and balanced.

Step 8

Lift the load by pulling the leftmost lever toward you. Keep the load low to the ground to keep the forklift's center of gravity low.

Step 9

Drive in reverse if the load blocks your view.

Step 10

Lower the forks to the ground after you set the load in place. This reduces the strain on the forklift's hydraulic system.

Step 11

Turn off the forklift, put the directional lever in neutral, and set the parking brake before removing the seat belt.