Is a sit-down forklift safer than a stand-up forklift?

Q:

We're considering getting a stand-up forklift for our workplace, but are they less safe than sit-down ones?

A:

As you might expect, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question. Both sit-down and stand-up forklifts have their safety benefits and drawbacks, and the safest one for your drivers depends very much on where it will be operating and what kind of work will be carried out (see 5 Loading Dock Catastrophes – And How to Prevent Them for related reading).

Sit-Down Forklifts

  • Sit-down forklifts tend to be more comfortable for operators.
  • They allow operators to face forward and see the load at all positions of the lifting and lowering process.
  • This type of forklift usually has a seatbelt, which keeps the driver from falling out but increases the time needed to get in and out of the vehicle.
  • Sit-down forklifts make it difficult for operators to see properly while moving in reverse, requiring them to twist their back and shoulders, which can cause ergonomic issues. This is especially the case if there is no back-up handle installed in the forklift.
  • Finally, they are also wider than stand-up forklifts, which makes it more difficult to maneuver them in narrow aisles or spaces.

Stand-Up Forklifts

  • Stand-up forklifts allow drivers to easily see in all directions while operating the vehicle, which is critical for preventing collisions with pedestrians and products.
  • Standing while operating the forklift helps prevent neck strain and other ergonomic issues.
  • Stand-up forklifts are shorter and narrower than sit-down models, which makes them ideal for navigating in smaller spaces.
  • Since they don't have seatbelts, drivers can get in and out quickly in an emergency.
  • While there is a risk of operator fatigue due to standing for long periods of time, studies suggest that workers are more alert when standing up as opposed to sitting down.

The Verdict

All things considered, stand-up forklifts may be the safer choice for workers who:

  • Must get in and out of the vehicle frequently (to build pallets or access product, for example)
  • Drive in reverse at least 25 percent of the time
  • Are required to safely navigate narrow aisles or tight spaces
  • Don’t often drive on slippery surfaces

Regardless of which forklift you choose, proper operator training is key to ensuring safety in the warehouse. All forklift operators must receive comprehensive training specific to the type of forklift they will be using.

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Written by Jessica Barrett
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Jessica is a freelance writer, editor, and communications consultant. After starting her career in the travel industry, she branched out on her own in 2016 and hasn't looked back since. Jessica is a regular contributor to several websites and works with numerous small businesses and NGOs around the world to craft content for both online and offline platforms. When she isn't writing, you might find her practicing yoga or adventuring (aka eating) her way through a new country.

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