Forklift Safety: Sharing Isn't Caring

Posted on 11/13/2023 by Nick Waldron and Roger Marks

As Americans, most of us drive to work on public roads every day. While driving, we generally give little thought to the risks of operating heavy machines at high speeds (and often within arm’s reach of other motorists).

The risks of driving a car become much clearer, however, when a friend asks to borrow the car. We accept the risks of driving because we all need to be at work on time, or be somewhere else, and driving is how we get everywhere. When a third party wants to takes those risks with your car, the calculus changes.

Drivers (“operators”) of forklifts and other powered industrial trucks (PIT) can (and do) find themselves in a similar situation at times:

A co-worker who is not trained or certified to legally operate a forklift—asks to borrow another employee’s forklift, access badge, key card, etc. This co-worker is a friend, who says they “just need to move one pallet out of the way” and that it will be “really quick.”

For employers and safety professionals, preventing unauthorized use of forklifts is a crucial safety and site security responsibility. By putting some best practices in place for operating training and the workplace safety program generally, facility leaders can help forklift drivers to avoid a potentially difficult or uncomfortable decision/situation.

Forklift Safety: Best Practices

While it's often referred to as the "forklift Standard," OSHA's regulations for Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs) in 1910.178 apply to more than the traditional fork truck, including:

  • Motorized hand trucks,
  • Tractors,
  • Platform lift trucks, and more.

As a safety manager, you want to set up your crew for success. The first step is designing a safety program, and the next one is to train your team on the fundamentals that are easy to forget—especially important for employees who may not come from a strong safety background. 

When you certify your employees to drive forklifts, include a provision that access may not be shared. No, leaving keys inside a forklift is not a safety violation directly. Uncertified use is a safety violation, and OSHA's General Duty Clause places the responsibility on employers to create a work environment "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."

Require the keys to be signed out. Encourage operators to be vigilant about protecting keys and access to keys. If you're in a retail environment, consider what actions need to be taken to ensure the safety of uncertified employees and pedestrians in the event of an emergency involving the lift operator. Train and re-train your employees not only on the how of PIT safety, but the why, too.

Employers should note that many of the PIT (i.e., forklift) violations cited every year are serious violations—these kinds of violations carry a max penalty of $15,625 per day, per violation. Repeat and willful violations can cost an employer $156,259 per day, per violation. By law, maximum penalties rise every year with inflation.

PIT violations rose 32% from 2022 to 2023 and rank 5th on the Top 10 Most Cited OSHA Violations of 2023.

All of us take calculated risks every day of our lives—a clear and obvious risk to avoid is granting easy access to equipment that requires a certification to operate.

Online Training to Prevent OSHA Violations in 2024

Check out to find safety training to inform and protect your workforce. From 10-hour training for general industry workers to HazCom, HAZWOPER, and more.

Lion offers online safety training that is informative and easy-to-use, and addresses many of the top 10 most cited OSHA Standards, including:

Hazard Communication
Forklift Safety

View more online safety training options at

Tags: forklift, health and safety, osha, safety, workplace safety

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

More thorough than a class I attended last year through another company.

Troy Yonkers

HSES Representative

My experience with Lion training, both online and in the classroom, is that they are far better organized and provide a better sequential explanation of the material.

Robert Roose

Manager, Dangerous Goods Transportation

This was the 1st instructor that has made the topic actually enjoyable and easy to follow and understand. Far better than the "other" training providers our company has attended!

Lori Hardy

Process & Resource Administrator

I like the consistency of Lion workshops. The materials are well put together and instructors are top notch!

Kevin Pylka

Permitting, Compliance & Environmental Manager

Amazing instructor; real-life examples. Lion training gets better every year!

Frank Papandrea

Environmental Manager

I chose Lion's online webinar because it is simple, effective, and easily accessible.

Jeremy Bost

Environmental Health & Safety Technician

I think LION does an excellent job of any training they do. Materials provided are very useful to my day-to-day work activities.

Pamela Embody

EHS Specialist

Very well structured, comprehensive, and comparable to live training seminars I've participated in previously. I will recommend the online course to other colleagues with training requirement needs.

Neil Luciano

EHS Manager

I tried other environmental training providers, but they were all sub-standard compared to Lion. I will not stray from Lion again!

Sara Sills

Environmental Specialist

I really enjoyed this training. Even after years on both sides of the comprehension coin, I find myself still learning! The quality of the delivery exceeded much of the training I have received in the past.

Neil Ozonur

Safety Officer

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Hazardous materials shipment rejections bear a big cost. Use this guide to end operational and logistical disruptions that severely impact your bottom line.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.