Forklift Hand Signals Every Operator Should Know

January 31, 2023 - Last modified: January 17, 2023 @ 10:14 am

Forklifts are one of the most valuable tools in a warehouse or construction site. They're excellent for increasing efficiency and saving money and time on a job. However, you should always handle forklifts cautiously to avoid accidents and injury. Every forklift operator should know forklift hand signals to get the job done safely.

What Are Forklift Hand Signals?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, operators must follow specific protocols when driving a forklift, including following OSHA forklift hand signals. These are the seven standardized forklift hand signals OSHA created.

Moving the Tines

The first three forklift operator forklift hand signals direct the movements of the tines or forks.

1. Move the Tines Right or Left

To help balance the load, the operator may need to move the tines to the right or left. This forklift hand signal is simple. To indicate that tines should move to the right, the spotter lifts their right arm to the side of their body, parallel to the floor, and points to the right. To signal that the tines should move left, the spotter raises their left arm to the side of their body, parallel to the floor, and points left.

2. Lower the Tines

When the forklift needs to pick up or drop off a load, the spotter extends their right arm and hand palm down. Then, they slowly lower their arm toward their body until the tines are low enough.

3. Raise the Tines

When it's time to lift a load, the spotter raises their right arm, bends the elbow and points towards the sky. Then, they move their hand in a circular motion, twirling it around until the tines are high enough.

Tilting the Mast

The operator tilts the mast to move the load closer or further from the carriage. The following two forklift hand signals show which way to tilt the mast.

4. Tilt Mast Forward

The spotter points his arm to the right, then makes a thumbs-down signal. Then, they slowly move their arm toward their body until the mast is correctly tilted.

5. Tilt Mast Back

To tilt the mast backward, the spotter raises their arm to the square, makes a thumbs up and slowly moves it toward their shoulder until the mast is at the right angle.

Emergency Signals

Emergencies can happen anytime, so the last two forklift hand signals indicate an emergency.

6. Dog Everything

When an unexpected and possibly hazardous situation appears, the spotter clasps his hands in front of his body at waist level. This pauses operations until the person or object obstructing the process is gone.

7. Emergency Stop

The operator immediately ceases operations when the spotter uses this forklift hand signal. Anyone on the worksite can give this signal if needed, and the operator must follow it. The spotter extends both arms out to the side of the body, parallel to the ground, with the palms facing down.

Want More Resources on Forklift Hand Signals and Safety?

Forklift hand signals help communication stay clear and work to be safer. Forklift Inventory is your resource for forklift safety or purchasing a forklift for your business.

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