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How to Stay Safe on Forklift Ramps

Posted by: admin on March 21, 2022

forklift ramp safety

Safe operation of a forklift is crucial. Businesses must teach their forklift operators about all aspects of lift safety. That way, lift operators can take precautions to avoid forklift accidents.

Forklift safety mainly focuses on operating the truck, including:

  • Driving, lifting, and lowering loads
  • Changing propane tanks
  • Identifying and understanding jobsite hazards

Meanwhile, operating a forklift on a ramp, slope, or incline may seem simple. Forklift ramps are designed to improve efficiency in the loading and unloading process. When used incorrectly, though, ramps can be dangerous and ultimately cause forklift tip-overs.

Do Your Employees Need Forklift Ramp Safety Training?

A forklift ramp can be dangerous, which is why forklift ramp safety should be included in your forklift operator training program. This is especially true if your employees frequently drive a forklift on inclines, slopes, and ramps.

With extensive training, your employees can learn best practices for how to drive a forklift on a ramp. They can also receive insights into OSHA forklift ramp requirements, comply with these requirements, and avoid OSHA penalties.

OSHA Forklift Ramp Requirements

OSHA defines any area where forklifts operate that exceed an angle of 10° as a ramp, incline, or slope. When driving a forklift on a ramp, OSHA CFR 1910.178 sets these standards:

  • Grades shall be ascended or descended slowly.
  • When driving on a grade that exceeds 10%, loaded trucks must drive with the load facing upward, regardless of whether a truck is traveling up or down a ramp.
  • A load must be tilted back across all grades, if applicable. The load should be raised only as much as necessary to clear the driving.

The formula to determine a ramp’s angle is simple: divide the amount of rise by the amount of run, then multiply the number by 100. The rise is the height of the ramp from the base of the ramp to its tallest part. Comparatively, the run is the total length of the ramp.

In other words, the formula is (5/50) x 100 = degree of angle. To better understand this formula, let’s assume you have a 5-ft. high ramp that runs for 50 ft. In this instance:

5 / 50 = .1

100 x .1 = 10

The bottom line: the ramp has an angle of 10°, so it is subject to OSHA ramp safety guidelines.

How to Operate a Forklift on an Incline or Ramp

Driving a forklift on an incline can be challenging, regardless of an operator’s experience. Fortunately, forklift operators who complete safety training can learn about the risks associated with driving a forklift on an incline. Perhaps best of all, these operators can receive insights into best practices for driving a forklift up and down ramps and grades.

To operate a forklift on an incline, a driver should review the lift’s operations manual. The maximum allowable slope varies based on the forklift, so a driver should find out the gradeability of their lift. Gradeability refers to the grade in which a forklift can climb and stop at full capacity. The highest gradeability forklifts may have a gradeability of 40%. 

Other tips for forklift loading ramp safety include:

  • If a manufacturer offers instructions regarding the operation of order pickers on inclines, the instructions should be followed to minimize the risk of accidents.
  • When carrying a load, keep the forks pointed upward; this helps prevent a load from falling off the forks.
  • If no load is being carried, keep the forks pointed downward; this helps improve the lift’s braking and traction.
  • Avoid sudden directional changes.
  • Travel in reverse when going down an incline with a load.
  • Ask for assistance from a spotter; a spotter can help an operator keep an eye out for hazards that block their view.

A forklift driver should also comply with OSHA mandates for driving forklift on incline. OSHA requires all lift operators to maintain slow speeds as they travel on an incline – even if the forklift isn’t carrying anything. Forklift safety training can make all the difference in promoting a safe work environment. 

Forklift Ramp Safety: Smart Ramp Design

Following OSHA forklift ramp requirements can help reduce the risk of forklift accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Building safety features into loading dock ramps can also help mitigate these issues.

Various safety features are commonly incorporated into ramps, including:

1. High-Traction Surfaces

Loading docks get a lot of forklift traffic. They are also exposed to the elements, which can cause loading docks to become oily and grimy. Building ramps with open steel grating reduces moisture buildup and provides better traction for forklift wheels.

2. Low-Angle Slopes

Steep ramps increase the risk of forklift tip-overs or losing a load. Longer ramps create a shallow grade to reduce or eliminate these hazards.

3. Tall Ramp Curbs

Forklift drivers should always keep a safe distance from the edge of a ramp. When they don’t, steel curbs along the edge of the ramp can provide extra protection. The curbs should be tall and strong enough to stop a forklift when a driver misjudges the edge of a ramp.

4. Extra Anchorage

Accidents can occur if ramps or dock plates shift when forklifts are on a ramp. Doubling the number of anchors at the ground level can help prevent shifting.

Smart ramp design may help improve forklift operator safety, as well as prevent forklift accidents, injuries, and fatalities before they happen. It requires hard work and patience, but in the long run, may benefit your business and its employees.

Forklift Ramp Safety FAQs

For businesses that are uncertain about how to educate their workers about safe use of forklifts on ramps, help is available. Here are answers to common forklift ramp safety questions.

How should a forklift go up a ramp?

When traveling up a forklift ramp slope, always point straight forwards. Even the slightest movement to the left or right can result in a tip-over. If you’re carrying a load, always travel with the forks pointed uphill. If you’re not carrying cargo, be sure to point the forks downhill, even if you’re traveling up the ramp. 

What is the maximum slope for a forklift ramp?

According to OSHA, “no ramp shall be inclined more than a slope of one vertical to three horizontal (20 degrees above the horizontal).” The specific maximum slope depends on the type of forklift being used. Check your manufacturer’s guide for guidance on your lift’s maximum slope abilities.

Can a forklift go down a ramp?

Yes, forklift ramps allow operators to travel both up and down. If you’re carrying a load, make sure the forks are pointed uphill as you reverse down the ramp slowly. When driving down a ramp with an empty forklift, travel in reverse and keep the lift’s forks pointed downward.

Can you turn a forklift on a slope?

Avoid turning to the left or right when traveling on a forklift ramp slope. Even the slightest of angles can lead to tip-overs. When operating a forklift on a ramp or incline, keep wheels pointed straight to avoid accidents and injuries.

How long does it take to stop a forklift on a ramp?

When traveling on flat ground, a forklift driving 7 mph will need approximately 16 ft. to come to a complete stop. Comparatively, on a forklift ramp, it takes additional time for a forklift operator to stop their lift. As such, forklift operators should give themselves extra stopping time when they drive on an incline or decline. Otherwise, if operators do not account for braking distance, they risk driving too fast or traveling too close to bystanders or objects. This can lead to forklift accidents, along with serious injuries or fatalities.

Forklift ramp safety is a top consideration for companies that employ forklift operators. By teaching their forklift operators how to safely use a lift on an incline or decline, these businesses can comply with OSHA standards.

Safety Training for OSHA Forklift Ramp Requirements

OSHA regulations feature a number of forklift safety requirements, including how to safely drive on a forklift ramp. At, we do the same, and we provide custom forklift training courses for all types of forklifts. offers training courses that can teach your employees how to properly operate a forklift on slopes, inclines, and ramps. Our courses are accessible anywhere an internet connection is available, and employees can complete them any time they choose, too. Plus, our training classes allow your employees to become OSHA-certified forklift operators, and they can easily renew their certification every three years with us as well.

Have questions about our forklift training courses? We’re happy to provide additional insight into our offerings. To learn more, please contact us online or call us today at 1-888-699-4800.

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