Understanding Forklift Speed Limits

Did you know that most forklifts can get up to a max speed of 10 MPH? That may not sound very fast, but it’s more than enough speed for a tragic accident. Someone could end up hurt or worse, and your business could suffer costly damage to machinery, supplies, and infrastructure.

In this article, we’ll go over why forklift speed matters. Specifically, we’ll cover official regulations, why it’s important to set your own speed limits, how to set them, and more.

What Is the Speed Limit for Forklifts?

You may be surprised to learn that, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “OSHA does not have specific speed limits set for the safe operation of a powered industrial truck.” That said, OSHA does have regulations for how forklifts should be operated. These include the following:

  • 1910.178(n)(10): The driver shall be required to slow down for wet and slippery floors.
  • 1910.178(n)(15): While negotiating turns, speed shall be reduced to a safe level by means of turning the hand steering wheel in a smooth, sweeping motion. Except when maneuvering at a very low speed, the hand steering wheel shall be turned at a moderate, even rate.

Furthermore, there are industry standards that you may want to follow. For example, the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association suggests a “maximum allowable speed of a forklift truck is 8 mph, but in areas where pedestrians move about, the forklift should not move faster than 3 mph.”

Understanding Forklift Speed Limits and OSHA Guidelines

Just because there’s not an official forklift speed limit doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set your own. Forklifts can weigh anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 pounds. Even at low speeds, they carry a lot of force and momentum.

On a similar note, forklifts can require a lot of stopping distance. At 4 MPH, the average forklift needs over 17 feet to come to a full stop. At 8 MPH, it needs 42 feet. Of course, this will vary between machines, so use a calculator to find out how much stopping distance is needed.

Failure to take these factors in mind increases the risk of safety hazards. For one, you could hit people, equipment, or infrastructure. In fact, workers getting hit by forklifts is one of the top causes of lift-truck-related work injuries. When you speed, you risk losing control of the vehicle, not seeing obstacles in time, and tipping over.

This can not only result in tragic accidents but costly fines, penalties, and losses. For example, you may be required to pay OSHA fines, incur expensive medical and legal bills, suffer costly downtime, and damage your reputation among employees and customers.

How to Set Forklift Maximum Speed Limits in Your Warehouse

Setting a forklift speed limit is a balancing act. You want to prioritize safety, but you also want to meet your production goals. Often, the two work against each other. The faster you drive, the faster you can work, but the more dangerous the work becomes.

Our recommendation is to err on the side of caution. It’s better to take things slow than to risk a serious accident that could lead to someone getting hurt or worse and put you behind schedule.

When setting your speed limit, here are some things to consider:

  • The warehouse environment
  • Floor surface (e.g. is it uneven or slippery?)
  • Inclines, declines, and corners
  • Visibility (e.g. is it common for operators to have blind spots?)
  • Forklift and tire types
  • Pedestrian traffic (e.g. keep pedestrian and forklift traffic separate)
  • The forklift’s stopping distance
  • Manufacturer’s speed limitations and recommended speed limit
  • Load weight and type

How to Reduce Forklift Speeds in Your Warehouse

The simplest way you can slow forklift speeds is to properly train operators. This should teach how to drive slowly and with caution, use your horn to alert others of your position, check your blind posts, keep a reasonable stopping distance, maintain a clear view, carry loads low to the ground, and obey traffic laws when driving on regular roads. You can develop an in-house program or outsource it to a professional

Once you have forklift speed regulations in place, you need to enforce them by warning and disciplining noncompliant operators. Of course, there are ways you can be encouraging, too. For example, you could set up speed limit signs across the warehouse, even radar ones that flash “slow down” when passing forklifts exceed the speed limit.

You can apply physical impairments, like speed bumps, or even install mechanical or electronic forklift speed controls. These devices force forklifts to stay under a custom speed limit that you set.

Whatever you do, make forklift safety a priority across the company so everyone knows what’s expected.

Stay Safe and Speedy With HTX

If you need to upgrade your forklifts or add to your current fleet, HTX Handling can help. Feel free to contact us today to learn more about our forklift equipment available for sale or rent. We look forward to chatting!



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