Forklift attachments

This guidance may help control risks from forklift attachments. The guidance is for employers and self-employed people. It may also benefit others with work health and safety duties.

Shape

Forklift definition

Part 3.6 of the OHS Regulations covers high-risk work, including forklift operation. For Part 3.6, a forklift means a powered industrial truck equipped with:

  • a mast, and
  • elevating load carriage to which a pair of fork arms or other load-holding attachment is attached

This guidance is for powered industrial trucks that fit this definition. To reflect common use, the guidance refers to these powered industrial trucks as forklifts.

A forklift for Part 3.6 does not include:

  • a pedestrian-operated industrial truck
  • a pallet truck that is unable, by design, to raise its fork arms 900 mm or more above the ground
  • an order-picking forklift truck
  • a tractor fitted with a pair of fork arms or other load-holding attachment

Comply with Australian Standards

Using an attachment on a forklift will change the forklift's stability and operating characteristics. Ensure attachments comply with the relevant Australian Standards.

Only use attachments that meet the following conditions:

  1. The forklift manufacturer has approved the use of the attachment.
  2. The attachment has a rated capacity.
  3. The attachment is listed on the forklift information plate or load capacity plate. The information should include the specific forklift and attachment's actual capacity when used together.

The information plate needs to indicate the rated capacity for the forklift when used with specific attachments. For example, jibs, grab or rotating attachments. Forklift operators must receive information, training or supervision for each attachment they use.

Before fitting or using an attachment, always check the forklift's information plate. Ensure that the specific attachment to be used is listed on the plate. If it is not on the information plate, the attachment must not be used.

Forklifts in Australia with a rated load of more than one tonne are typically designed with a standard load centre distance of 600 mm. This load centre distance ensures forklifts can accommodate a standard hardwood pallet of 1200 mm by 1200 mm. The capacity of a forklift can be significantly reduced when attachments are fitted or fork arms are changed for a greater load centre.

Illustration showing Attachments plate for a forklift. Information about forklifts model, serial number, mast, tyre type and weight. As well as what authorised attachments can be fitted to the forklift.
Figure 1: An example of a forklift information plate showing attachment capacities.

Some forklifts are imported into Australia with 500 mm load centre fork arms. In most cases, the manufacturer's agent will alter the forklift to 600 mm load centres before sale. However, where direct imports occur by an individual or a company, forklifts with 500 mm load centre may be offered for sale. Buyer beware in these cases.

When an attachment is fitted, the supplier will amend the information plate or provide a supplementary information plate for the forklift's rated capacity.

The operator manual supplied with the forklift includes information on how to read an information plate. Before using an attachment, it is important to ensure the following:

  • The attachment is inspected as part of the daily pre-operational inspection.
  • Where an attachment needs to be secured to the forklift, it is adequately secured as required by the safe-use information supplied with the attachment. For example, by using pins or a chain.
  • The operator is aware of the limitations of the forklift with the attachment.
  • The operator is provided with information and instructions on how to use the attachment.

Ensure all lifting or suspending is done with attachments that are:

  • appropriate to the load
  • within the safe work limits of the plant

Attachments for suspended loads

Forklift jibs

Forklift jibs allow the lifting of long, heavy or awkward loads. Jibs come in a range of options. They include fixed, as shown in Figure 2, or telescopic extension, as shown in Figure 3.

Illustration of a jib attachment with a bulka bag suspended from it.
Figure 2: An example of a fixed jib attachment.
Illustration of a telescopic jib attachment.
Figure 3: An example of a telescopic jib attachment.

When using jibs, ensure the following:

  • The forklift and jib's actual capacity is determined. This will take into account:

    • the weight of the attachment
    • the increase in load centre
    • the swing of the load

    Note: This information needs to be detailed on the forklift information plate.

  • The forklift with jib is only operated on a hard, flat, level surface.
  • The operator is trained in the use of the jib attachment.

Consider whether it is possible to use alternative specifically designed load-shifting equipment. For example, use an overhead crane for regular shifting of large sheets of stone, steel or plant maintenance equipment.

Lifting bulka bags

Flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBC) are commonly known as 'bulka bags'.

Bulka bag lifting attachments allow the movement of FIBCs.

Illustration of a forklift with a lifting attachment for bulka bags.
Figure4: A bulka bag lifting attachment for forklifts.

Safety can be compromised in the following situations:

  • The safe working load limit is exceeded.
  • The bulka bag has become damaged by multiple use, incorrect use, chemicals or mechanical damage. Damage can cause the bag or contents to fall.
  • The bulka bag lifting loops or sling are exposed to ultraviolet rays or are out of date.
  • The load-bearing lifting loops are hooked directly onto a forklift's fork arms. This exposes the lifting loops to sharp edges and can cause the loops to fail under load.
  • People place themselves underneath or near a suspended load.
  • There is no frame to support the bag before releasing contents.

If a lifting loop fails, a suspended bag could swing or drop and strike people nearby.

Before using the bulka bag lifting attachment, consult with either:

  • the manufacturer
  • the forklift supplier
  • a suitably competent person

If a bulka bag is to be used, ensure its lifting loops are inspected before each use. Also ensure the lifting attachment is part of the daily inspection.

The manufacturer or a suitably competent person needs to review the capacity of the forklift and attachment combination.

Work platforms

Employers must ensure plant used to lift or suspend people, equipment or materials is specifically designed to lift or suspend the load. Employers must do this so far as reasonably practicable. Forklifts are not specifically designed to lift people. To lift people, use plant that is designed for this task. For example, use a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), such as a knuckle boom or scissor lift.

MEWPs have risk controls that forklifts do not. These include:

  • operator controls in the control of the person being lifted
  • load management systems to prevent the MEWP from reaching a position where the platform could destabilise
  • pothole protection
  • speed limiting when in the raised position
  • ramp down time
  • in-built emergency retrieval controls that can be used in the event of failure of the plant's normal operation

Forklift work platforms should not be used for tasks such as order picking.

If a work platform is to be used for a task, ensure the following:

  • The forklift's nameplate lists the work platform and includes the work platform model and serial number.
  • The work platform is secured to the forklift by pins or a chain.
  • A risk assessment is carried out before using the work platform.
  • The work platform is included in the forklift pre-operational check.
  • A harness is used and attached to an anchor point in the work platform appropriate for the fall clearance should the harness deploy.
  • People using the work platform have received training for safe working at heights. This includes training in harness use.
  • Barriers and signs prevent interference from passing traffic.
  • The forklift forward tilt is locked out and the mast maintained in the vertical position.
  • Ladders or other height equipment are not to be used to gain additional height from the work platform.
  • The forklift remains stationary while a person is within the work platform.
  • A person is not transported while standing within the work platform.
  • A person in the work platform does not exit the work platform while it is in a raised position.

This is not a complete list of requirements. Refer to Australian Standard AS2359.2 for more requirements.

Illustration of an elevated work platform.
Figure 5: Scissor-type MEWP for operating on a flat or solid surface.
Illustration of an elevated work platform on a knuckle boom.
Figure 6: A knuckle boom.

WorkSafe has more information about the dangers of using forklifts to lift people. The information includes details of a fall from a steel stillage raised on a forklift. Find the information in the Safety Alerts section of the WorkSafe website. There are also other Safety Alerts relating to forklifts.

Further information

WorkSafe

Safety alerts

Legislation

Industry and standards

The following standards include information relevant to the use and operation of forklifts. If a standard has been superseded, refer to the updated document.

  • AS 1319:1994 - Safety signs for the occupational environment.
  • AS/NZS 1596:2014 - The storage and handling of LP Gas.
  • AS/NZS 1680 (series) - Interior and workplace lighting.
  • AS 1742 (series) - Manual of uniform traffic control devices.
  • AS 1763:1985 - Industrial trucks – Glossary of terms.
  • AS 1940:2017 (series) - The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.

Related pages

This information is from WorkSafe's Forklift safety guidebook. The complete guide is available in two formats.

Website version PDF guidebook