Seven essential skills for forklift operators 

Operating a warehouse requires a team of highly skilled and dedicated forklift drivers. A forklift operator is responsible for transporting and distributing goods safely and efficiently. Therefore, operators must undergo regular and thorough training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to operate a forklift safely. 

To help you maintain a safe and efficient warehouse, we’ve outlined six skills for forklift operation. 

Quick thinking and adaptability 

Warehouses are dynamic work environments. The day-to-day tasks of a forklift driver may vary, which means it’s essential for an operator to have the ability to think on their feet and adapt quickly. An operator may have to switch between machines, adapt to different environments and complete various tasks while maintaining safety and efficiency. Training your team to have an understanding of various tasks allows each operator to be prepared for sudden changes.

Communication skills 

Excellent communication skills are essential in maintaining a safe working environment. Forklift operators need to communicate clearly with those around them to reduce the risk of accidents. As the forklift operator’s vision is often obscured, your employees must learn a consistent way of alerting nearby pedestrians. While it’s essential to communicate clearly when driving the forklift, it’s equally important to communicate with your coworkers before and after operating a forklift. If you are sharing a forklift, store it in a safe area and clearly communicate with the next operator if you notice any issues. 

Safety understanding

Any large piece of machinery can become a hazard when not used correctly. To reduce the risks associated with forklift operation, it’s critical that the operator understands the safety precautions and follows them accordingly. Encourage your team to undergo regular safety training to refresh their knowledge. It’s important to constantly communicate safety techniques making them a regular part of your warehouse operations. 


Operators working in a busy warehouse must be patient. There may be times when the operator needs to wait for their coworkers to finish a task and move on before they can complete their own task. Rushing other employees will only place them under unnecessary stress and put everyone’s safety at risk. For example, the operator needs to carefully check that their load is stable and adjust to balance it. It’s crucial never to overload your forklift.


A forklift operator needs to be open to adapting and changing depending on the situation. Flexibility is essential in the construction and warehousing industry, as deadlines and schedules are constantly changing. Training your employees to be understanding and quick to adopt change will prove advantageous to your operations. Flexibility involves teaching your employees to operate different types of machines, complete different tasks and operate in various environments. 

Eye for safety 

Forklift operators must be trained to know their surroundings and identify hazards early. A wrong move on a high-risk machine can result in severe damage to the forklift and injury to the operator. Having an eye for safety means being alert. Any safety hazards need to be recognised and fixed immediately. An operator with an eye for safety and thorough training will be able to identify areas of safety improvements and contribute to a safe working environment. 

Understanding of forklift maintenance 

Maintaining your forklift is critical for the continuous flow of a productive workplace, but also for the safety of your employees. Aim to keep track of when your forklift was last serviced and stick to the schedule as closely as possible. Teach your employees to identify and report any warning signs that the forklift may need to be assessed by a professional. It’s important that every employee who operates a forklift has at least a basic understanding of forklift maintenance and is able to perform daily safety checks, such as a pre-start safety check.

If you are looking for advice regarding safe and efficient forklift operations, get in touch with our team at 1300HYWORTH. 

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