Forklift legal duties

This guidance explains legal duties relating to the use of forklifts. It is for employers, self-employed people, people who manage or control workplaces and employees.

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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

Duties to protect health and safety

The OHS Act and OHS Regulations place duties on various people to protect the health and safety of employees and others. Those with duties relating to forklifts include employers, self-employed people, people with management or control of a workplace and employees.

Employers

Employers have a range of duties. They include the following:

  • As an employer, you must provide and maintain a working environment for your employees that is safe and without risks to health. You must do this so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • You must ensure your work does not put people other than your employees at risk. For example, members of the public. You must do this so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • You must not allow an employee to perform high-risk work unless the employee holds an appropriate high-risk work licence. This includes using a forklift.

The word 'must' indicates a legal requirement that has to be complied with. The words 'need to' and 'needs to' indicate a recommended course of action in line with duties and obligations under Victoria's health and safety legislation. The word 'should' indicates a recommended optional course of action.

Reasonably practicable

'Reasonably practicable' is a legal concept and a requirement under some parts of the OHS Act and OHS Regulations. Simply, it means doing what a reasonable person in the same position would do.

For information about what reasonably practicable means, see the WorkSafe position How WorkSafe Applies the Law in Relation to Reasonably Practicable. It is available on the WorkSafe website.

Consultation

As an employer you have a duty to consult with your employees. You must consult with employees who are directly affected by any of the matters listed in the OHS Act. You must also consult with employees who are likely to be directly affected by those matters.

As well, you must consult with independent contractors and their employees and with labour hire workers. There are also consultation obligations between employers and labour hire providers who share occupational health and safety duties to labour hire workers.

Your employees might have health and safety representatives (HSRs). Consultation must involve HSRs, either with or without employees' direct involvement.

You must consult so far as is reasonably practicable.

You must consult your employees when doing any of the following:

  • Identifying or assessing hazards or risks.
  • Making decisions on how to control risks.
  • Making decisions about employee welfare facilities. For example, the adequacy of dining facilities, change rooms, toilets or first aid.
  • Deciding on procedures to:
    • resolve health and safety issues
    • consult with employees on health and safety
    • monitor employees' health and workplace conditions
    • provide information and training
  • Deciding the membership of any health and safety committee in the workplace.
  • Proposing changes to the following that may affect employees’ health or safety:
    • workplace
    • plant, substances or other things used in the workplace
    • conduct of work done at the workplace
  • Doing anything else set by the OHS Regulations.

As an employer, you must provide employees with the opportunity to express their views. You must also take employees’ views into account.

WorkSafe has more information about duties relating to consultation. See the guidance, Consultation: A guide for Victorian workplaces.

You will also find more information about employers’ duties on the WorkSafe website.

Self-employed people

Self-employed people must ensure their work does not expose people to health and safety risks. They must do this so far as is reasonably practicable.

People with management or control of workplaces

A person who has management or control has a general duty to ensure that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health. The person must do this so far as reasonably practicable. This duty only applies in relation to matters over which the person has management or control.

Employees

Employees must, while at work:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety
  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions in the workplace
  • not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interest of health and safety

As an employee, you must also cooperate with your employer's actions to make the workplace safe. For example, by following policies, procedures, information, instruction or training. WorkSafe has more guidance on its website about employees' duties.

Plant-related duties of employers and self-employed people

Under the OHS Regulations, employers and self-employed people have specific duties in relation to plant. This includes forklifts.

As an employer or self-employed person, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • identify all hazards associated with the installation, erection, commissioning, decommissioning, dismantling and use of plant at the workplace
  • eliminate any risk associated with plant

Where a risk cannot be eliminated, you must reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by:

  • substituting the plant with plant that has a lower level or risk
  • isolating the plant from people
  • using engineering controls
  • combining any of these risk control measures

If a risk from plant remains after complying with the listed controls, you must further reduce the risk with administrative controls. You must do this so far as reasonably practicable.

If a risk from plant still remains, you must further reduce the risk by providing personal protective equipment (PPE). Again, you must do this so far as is reasonably practicable.

This process of controlling risks is known as the hierarchy of control. Find more information about the hierarchy of control on the WorkSafe website.

As an employer or self-employed person, you must also ensure that plant is inspected. Plant must be inspected so far as is necessary to ensure any risk associated with its use is monitored.

As well, you must take steps to prevent alterations to the plant that have not been permitted. You must also take steps to prevent interference with the plant.

Plant used to lift or suspend loads

Employers and self-employed people have duties relating to plant used to lift or suspend loads. This includes forklifts. You must ensure the plant used to lift or suspend loads is specifically designed to lift or suspend the load. You must do this so far as is reasonably practicable. As well, you must ensure that:

  • the plant is fitted with lifting attachments that are appropriate to the load to be lifted or suspended
  • the load is within the safe working limits of the plant
  • the load is not suspended over or travel over a person
  • the load remains under control when lifted or suspended
  • no load is lifted simultaneously by more than one piece of plant

Powered mobile plant

Employers and self-employed people have duties relating to powered mobile plant. This includes forklifts. In line with these duties, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risks of:

  • powered mobile plant overturning
  • objects falling on the operator of the powered mobile plant
  • the operator being ejected from the powered mobile plant
  • powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians or other powered mobile plant

If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, you must reduce the risks. You must reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Protective devices

The OHS Regulations place other mobile plant duties on employers and self-employed people. This includes duties relating to devices that protect operators. In line with these duties, you must:

  • provide an appropriate combination of operator protective devices
  • ensure the devices are maintained
  • ensure the devices are used
  • do all these things so far as is reasonably practicable

OHS Regulations duties relating to forklifts

Employers and self-employed persons have duties in the OHS Regulations that relate specifically to the use of industrial lift trucks, including forklifts.

In fulfilling these duties you must ensure forklifts are equipped with lifting attachments appropriate for the load to be lifted or moved.

So far as is reasonably practicable, you must also ensure forklifts are used in a manner that eliminates risks from:

  • systems of work
  • the environment in which the forklift is used

If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, you must reduce the risks. You must reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Forklifts must be fitted with warning devices. The devices must effectively warn people who may be at risk from the forklift's movement.

Seats

As an employer or self-employed person, you must ensure any person who rides on a forklift with a seat is seated in the seat. The seat must be:

  • specifically designed for carrying a passenger
  • fitted with appropriate seat restraints
  • located within the zone of protection provided by the required operator protective device

Other duties apply in relation to the use of forklifts and other plant. For more information, see the Plant compliance code. The compliance code is available on the WorkSafe website.

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