How to Prevent The Most Common Forklift Operator Injuries

Twisting and turning into and from awkward positions, sitting for long periods, and spending long hours on a machine with no suspension are reason enough to be sore and tired at the end of a workday. They’re also why forklift operators so often find themselves with musculoskeletal and repetitive use injuries. Lower back pain, musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries are some of the most common reasons for missed work and worker’s compensation claims, according to a report on OSHA’s website.

“Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are the most widespread occupational health hazard facing our Nation today. Nearly two million workers suffer work-related musculoskeletal disorders every year, and about 600,000 lose time from work as a result. Although the median number of lost workdays associated with these incidents is seven days, the most severe injuries can put people out of work for months and even permanently disable them. In addition, $1 of every $3 spent on workers’ compensation stems from insufficient ergonomic protection. The direct costs attributable to
musculoskeletal disorders are $15 to $20 billion per year, with total annual costs reaching $45 to $54 billion.”

The following are some of the most common injuries forklift operators experience, and how they can be avoided.

  • Lower back issues from prolonged sitting, along with shock and/or vibration caused during travel
  • Getting on and off a forklift numerous times each shift
  • Musculoskeletal injuries from repetitive movements
  • Neck and back pain due to vibration, poor posture and shifting into an awkward position to maintain visibility
  • Whiplash Injuries such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating from abrupt stops and starts

Some of the issues described above may start as slight pain, but can turn into chronic pain, reduced movement and even the inability to work.

To prevent some of the issues above, forklift operators should:
– Stretch their hands, shoulders and neck regularly: before and after each shift and during breaks
– Never drive with a wallet or other bulky object in a back pocket 
– Position the seat so their feet can easily reach the pedals
– Adjust the backrest (if possible) so it is tilted slightly backward
– Slow Down! Faster speeds increase shock and vibration that can cause bad posture and fatigued muscles

Facility managers can prevent injuries by:
– Keeping forklift tires in good working condition.
– Fixing rough, broken floor surfaces and potholes.


– Replace the seat every three years, or use an anti-vibration seat cushion  – Install a grab handle-mounted horn button, so drivers don’t have to push the horn button on the steering wheel while traveling in reverse.

When buying a new forklift, look for ergonomic features such as:
– A vibration-dampening steering column
– A mast designed for the best possible visibility
– Angled cross braces so looking up through the overhead guard is easy without neck strain
– Low step height for easy entry and exit
– A small steering wheel combined with a large operator cabin
– For stand-up lift trucks, look for intuitive, low force single-hand control operation and low-vibration suspended floorboards

Minor discomfort and little injuries can add up to a big expense for the forklift operator and the employer. To learn more about ergonomic options on a new forklift, or ergonomic accessories for any lift truck in your fleet, contact us online, or by phone at 800-666-1774.

Spokane Ag Expo 2019

With the range of material handling products and solutions that Norlift offers, it makes sense to be at the Spokane Ag Expo and Farm Forum. Whether for lift trucks, storage racking and shelving, bins and boxes, or wheels and casters – farmers, ranchers and their suppliers make up a large percentage of our customer list.  We’ve seen over the years that they’re also some of our most loyal customers, and it’s always great to be able to connect with them at the Ag Show.

The somewhat recent addition of JCB construction equipment is another reason to be at the show.  The innovation in JCB’s equipment is easily noticed by show attendees, leading to questions like, “How far does the boom on the Teleskid reach?”, “What size engine does that have?”, and “How does that not need DEF?”   The individual specific questions that get asked are always interesting, “Is it really easier for a big guy like me to get in that side door [instead of] over the track?”

For a relatively new brand to the area, JCB reliability is well known, and people instantly appreciate how easy it is to do daily checks on any JCB machine.

The following are a few photos from this year’s show.

Does Your Forklift Need Service or Repair?

The sometimes subtle (and sometimes not) signs
that your lift truck needs service – in Top Ten Form

Ignoring these signs, or other obvious malfunctions could result in damage to your equipment and an unsafe vehicle and work environment.

10. Engine turns over slowly – may require a new battery, starter or alternator, or belt.
9. Rough idling, hesitation or stalling on acceleration – may require a tune-up.
8. Excessive emissions – visible white, blue, or black smoke from the exhaust system. A strong exhaust odor may also indicate high emissions.
7. Rougher or harsher than normal ride – tires may require replacement due to uneven wear or wear beyond specs.
6. Leaks within or beneath the forklift.
5. Hardened, cracked or brittle hoses.
4. Engine temperature exceeding normal operating heat range.
3. Slow or jerky hydraulic response when using lift, tilt or attachment functions.
2. Inconsistent braking – brakes squealing or brakes locking – or requiring too much pedal input.
1. Binding and or excessive play found in the mast – upright or carriage assembly – lift chains, bearings, or mast shims may be worn beyond specs.

Allow only trusted, qualified forklift service professionals to work on your lift equipment. Norlift has Toyota and JCB certified technicians in eastern Washington, north Idaho and western Montana to handle all yours service needs.