Forklift Stability: The Basics – Forklift Safety Newsletter – June 2015

Forklift Stability: The Basics

If we are going to achieve rule number two, we need to know that forklift stability is determined by many factors including the design of the forklift, the load, the operating surface, and the operator’s skills.

Operators need to know that most forklifts have a three-point suspension which results in a stability triangle, and it’s the operator’s job to keep the center of gravity (CG) within this triangle. But the CG is constantly changing as the forklift and the load are moved, raised and lowered. The closer the center of gravity gets to the edge of the triangle the more likely the unit is to tip, especially in the case of a sudden turn or deceleration.

forklift stability 2

Loaded Forklift

forklift stability 1

Unloaded Forklift







Forklift Safety Rule One: Don’t hurt anyone.
Forklift Safety Rule Two: Don’t tip over.

Many untrained operators assume that they can drive faster without a load, but look at the location of the CG with unloaded forks. It is much closer to the sides of the triangle compared with the unloaded location. On the other hand a loaded forklift is more likely to tip forward with the CG now closer to the front axle.

forklift stability 3

Lower Load Forklift diagram

Things get s little more complicated when we look at the triangle in three dimensions. Now we have a pyramid. Operators need to understand that the higher you raise the load, the closer the CG comes to the edge of the pyramid and the forklift loses stability. Making a turn or braking sharply with a raised load is a dangerous and expensive way to learn about the stability pyramid.

This is why competent operators lower their load before maneuvering. And when they stack, they don’t raise the load until they are directly in front of the stacking location.

Understanding the factors that can cause tip overs is a basic requirement for all operators if we hope to achieve Forklift Safety Rule 2.


If you would like to share your experiences/photos of forklift incidents that can educate others on the principles of safe forklift operation please send them to:

We will not publish company or individuals names.

forklift stability button

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Bruce Hulberg February 9, 2016

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