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Why Do Empty Forklifts Pose Stability Risk?

May 14, 2024

Why should a Forklift Operator be Careful Operating a Forklift Without a Load?

Increased Risk of Tip-Over:

  • Why are unloaded forklifts more likely to tip over? I’d find a different article to link to. This company also sells forklifts etc. We wouldn’t want them to leave our site for a different forklift seller (even though they operate overseas)
    • An empty forklift is more prone to instability because its center of gravity is higher.
    • When a forklift carries a load, the weight helps stabilize it by lowering its center of gravity.
    • Without a load, the center of gravity shifts upward.
    • This upward shift makes the forklift more prone to tipping if it encounters uneven terrain or makes sharp turns.
  • Awareness of how sharp turns and sudden movements can exacerbate instability prompts operators to approach maneuvers with caution
  • By understanding the impact of lighter weight distribution, operators can take proactive measures to maintain stability, such as reducing speed and avoiding abrupt changes in direction

Impact on Stability Triangle:

  • Recognizing the potential for the center of gravity to shift beyond the stability triangle underscores the need for operators to stay within safe operating parameters
  • Understanding how operational conditions can affect stability empowers operators to make informed decisions to prevent tip-over accidents
  • Ensuring operators grasp the concept of the stability triangle enhances their ability to assess and mitigate risks during forklift operation

Operator Safety:

  • Emphasizing the risks posed by empty forklifts to operator safety underscores the importance of comprehensive training
  • Providing operators with the knowledge and skills to recognize and respond to potential hazards reduces the likelihood of accidents

Understanding Forklift Stability:

Basics of Stability:
    • Forklift stability hinges on balancing the center of gravity (CG) within the stability base
    • The stability base is defined by a triangle formed between the front wheels and the pivot of the rear axle, known as the "stability triangle.
    • Deviation of the CG outside this triangle significantly increases the risk of tip-over
    The Stability Triangle
    • The triangle, essentially a pyramid, is oriented around the forklift
    • An unloaded forklift's center of gravity is in the middle of the stability triangle
    • Each load has its own center of gravity, interacting with the forklift, creating a combined center of gravity
    • As the forklift raises or tilts a load, the combined center of gravity shifts
    • The rate of acceleration, turns, and stops also influences the combined center of gravity
    • If the combined center of gravity approaches the stability triangle's outer limits, there's a risk of tip-over
    Center of Gravity:
    • The Center of Gravity's (CG) location is crucial for forklift stability
    • When lifting a load, the combined CG of the forklift and the load shifts, affecting stability dynamics
    • Factors such as load characteristics like excessive load, surface conditions like slopes and operator actions influence CG and stability
    What Factors impact the Stability and Center of Gravity of a Forklift? (Logisnext)

    Because an empty lift truck has the ability to tip-over sideways more easily than a lift truck carrying a load in the lowered position, these factors should be considered when the lift truck is unloaded:

    1. Center of gravity - load

    2. Combined center of gravity

    3. Center of gravity - Lift Truck

    Impact on Stability Triangle:
    • Recognizing the potential for the center of gravity to shift beyond the stability triangle underscores the need for operators to stay within safe operating parameters
    • Higher Center of Gravity:
      • An empty forklift has a higher center of gravity due to less weight to counterbalance its height
      • Makes the forklift more prone to instability
    • Shift Beyond Stability Triangle:
      • The stability triangle is the area between the front wheels and the forklift's center of gravity
      • When the center of gravity shifts beyond this triangle, the forklift becomes unstable
    • Impact on Safe Operating Parameters:
      • Operators need to recognize the potential for the center of gravity to shift beyond the stability triangle
      • Staying within safe operating parameters becomes crucial, especially when the forklift is empty
      • Awareness of the forklift's stability limitations and adjusting driving behavior accordingly to avoid accidents

    Operator Safety:

    Factors Impacting Stability:

    1. Various factors affect forklift stability, including load size, weight distribution, and operational conditions
    2. An empty forklift presents unique challenges due to its lighter weight distribution, making it more prone to sideways tip-over
    How To Avoid The Risk:

    Read more about Toyota System of Active Stability:

    7 Key Actions To Avoid Forklift Tipping Over

    1. Fasten the seat belt
    2. Stay seated during tip-over
    3. Avoid overloading
    4. Watch for tail-swing
    5. Check surface strength
    6. Avoid abrupt movements
    7. Use caution on slopes

    What To Do if Forklift Tips Over

    1. Stay in your seat! Do not leave the lift
    2. Keep your seatbelt on
    3. Keep your hands on the steering wheel and stay stable
    4. Seek medical attention

    Atlas provides comprehensive OSHA-compliant training for every forklift application and mobile elevation work platform in our 1-day certification class.

    Forklift Operator Training

    Mobile Elevating Work Platform

    PHS, Inc. (May, 2021). What Keeps a Forklift From Tipping? [Blog post]. Retrieved from
    Conger, J. (April, 2024). Forklift Tip-Over: Causes & Prevention. Retrieved from
    Kumar, J. K. (October, 2023). The Relationship Between Forklift, Center of Gravity, and Stability. Retrieved from
    Logisnext Americas. (n.d.). How to Avoid Forklift Tip-Over and How to Survive One. Retrieved from https://www.logisnextamericas.... (July, 2022). Why Would a Forklift Tip Over? Retrieved from https://www.forkliftcertificat...
    Atlas Toyota Material Handling. (February, 2024). What Is Toyota System of Active Stability (SAS)? Retrieved from

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