Introduction to forklift health and safety

An introduction to WorkSafe's guidance on managing the hazards and risks of forklifts. The guidance is primarily for employers and self-employed people. It may also benefit forklift operators and those with responsibilities for managing hazards and risks in the workplace.


Forklift advice

The guidance on the following pages provides practical advice on the selection, safe use and maintenance of forklifts. It includes principles and requirements for using a forklift in a range of workplaces and industries.


The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) are a set of laws. They build on the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act). Consider both the OHS Act and the OHS Regulations when controlling hazards and risks from forklifts.


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


A forklift is an item of plant. Plant is a broad term. Under the OHS Act, plant generally includes any machinery, equipment, appliance, implement and tool. It also includes any part of that machinery, equipment, appliance, implement or tool and anything fitted, connected or related to any of those things.

The OHS Regulations also cover plant. Part 3.5 of the OHS Regulations apply to:

  • pressure equipment
  • tractors
  • earthmoving machinery
  • lasers
  • scaffolds
  • temporary access equipment
  • explosive-powered tools
  • turbines
  • amusement structures

Unless the plant relies exclusively on manual power or is designed to be primarily supported by hand, Part 3.5 of the OHS Regulations also applies to:

  • plant that processes material by way of a mechanical action that does any of the following, including where the action is not the plant's main purpose:
    • cuts, drills, punches or grinds
    • presses, forms, hammers, joins or moulds
    • combines, mixes, sorts, packages, assembles, knits or weaves
  • plant that lifts or moves materials or people, other than ship, boat, aircraft or vehicle designed for use primarily as a means of transport on a public road or rail

Other powered mobile plant

While primarily for forklifts, the safety principles in this guidance can be applied to other powered mobile plant. These principles may help eliminate or reduce risks to operators of powered mobile plant and to pedestrians. The guidance is based on industry expectations, practices and systems at the time of publication.

This guidance does not prevent the use of other approaches, practices and systems. However, those methods should achieve an equivalent or improved level of safety.

This guidance does not provide detailed information about the duties of forklift designers and manufacturers. WorkSafe's Plant compliance code has information about duties relating to plant design, manufacture and supply. The compliance code is available on the WorkSafe website.

Guidance for general use

The information presented in this series of guidance is intended for general use only. It should not be viewed as a definitive guide to the law and should be read in conjunction with the OHS Act and the OHS Regulations.

Further information


Safety alerts


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