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Side Loading Forklifts and Their Uses

Posted by: admin on December 6, 2021

side loading forklifts are used in narrow warehouse aislesSide loader forklifts are used for lifting, transporting and unloading long, heavy and awkward loads through narrow warehouse aisles. Anyone operating side loaders must be certified to do so. With, you can get your employees certified to drive side loader forklifts in about an hour’s time with our affordable, convenient online class. Keep reading to discover more about side loader forklifts and the certification needs associated with these machines.

What is a Side Loader Forklift?

Around since the 1950s, side loader forklifts are typically found in steel service centers, lumber yards and other businesses where lengthy or bulky items need to be moved through tight passages. Unlike ordinary forklifts, the side loader lift operator stands sideways in the lift’s cabin, which gives him or her a clear view in all directions. Side loader forklift forks are located on the side rather than the front.

How to Operate a Side Loader Forklift

Before operating a side loader forklift, there are a few key things you should know. Since side loader forks are extended with a scissor mechanism, they never need to turn in an aisle. This means they can be almost the same width as the aisle itself. Narrow aisle forklifts come in handy in such situations. Intended primarily for indoor use, side loaders can also be used outside.

Side loading forklifts come in both man up and man down models. Cabins on man down forklifts are fixed to the vehicle’s body, while cabins on man up side loaders are raised and lowered with the forks. Man up sideloaders allow the operator to combine pallet handling tasks with order picking and inventory retrieval. When used for order picking, the man up version has the additional advantage of placing the operator near the items being retrieved.

Sideloader bed lift lengths are adjustable, and can be configured to perform various tasks. Most sideloaders can also be adjusted for lift capacity, mast height and fork length. Optional accessories include lights, mirrors and similar add-on safety equipment. Side loading forklifts come in models powered by batteries, diesel or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Benefits of sideloaders over regular forklifts include faster travel speeds and better maneuverability in tight spaces. Because they give the operator greater visibility, they’re also safer to operate

If you’re eager to learn how to operate a side loader, you’ll want to be sure to receive thorough training. Certification is necessary to operate these powerful vehicles. It’s important not to lose sight of the risks associated with side loader forklifts. Without proper training, you could find yourself in over your head. Even if you do manage to safely operate such a machine without proper certification, the potential for expensive OSHA fines just isn’t worth the risk. 

Side Loader Forklift Operator Certification Requirements

As with other forklift and aerial lift workers, OSHA requires side loader forklift operators to be properly trained and certified before they’re allowed to use the equipment. It’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all side lift operators have been properly trained. Failure to do so can result in substantial fines from OSHA. Worse yet, side loading lifts in the hands of untrained workers can result in workplace accidents causing serious injuries or even death.

Consequences of Not Certifying Side Loader Forklift Operators

Businesses are at a constant risk of being audited by OSHA. Should they stop by for an inspection or audit your safety plans and find you’re allowing uncertified workers to operate side loader forklifts, OSHA may levy expense fines. According to a survey conducted by, out of 100 participants, 53 had their safety plans audited by OSHA. 85 had received OSHA fines at some point in the past, and 57 of them were over $100,000. Odds are good that you can’t afford to run the risk!

Side Loader Forklift FAQs

Still have questions about side loader forklifts? We’ve got the answers you need:

What are the Benefits of Using Side Loader Forklifts?

In addition to the operator’s increased forward and rearward visibility, their unique design gives side loading forklifts some advantages over conventional forklifts. These include:

  • Ability to move alongside storage racks or trucks for easier loading and unloading
  • They’re able to move down narrow aisles and through narrow doorways
  • A flat cargo bed on the side of the lift helps stabilize the load when it’s being moved
  • Because their loads face the direction the lift is moving, long and awkward loads can be handled more safely and easily
  • Some newer models allow operators to steer each of the lift’s four wheels separately, which lets them move in all four directions

Are There Any Drawbacks to Using Side Loader Forklifts?

With the exception of when working in narrow aisles, side loader forklifts are generally less maneuverable than standard forklifts. Because they’re specialized pieces of equipment, it’s sometimes necessary to purchase accessories or attachments for handling and moving different load weights and types of materials.

Are There Different Types of Side Loader Forklifts?

Multi-directional forklifts provide a one-vehicle solution that can be used for a variety of tasks. They combine the features of side loader forklifts, very narrow aisle (VNA) vehicles and counterbalanced forklifts in a single piece of equipment. As with sideloaders, multi-directional forklifts are available in battery-operated, diesel and LNG powered versions. Since they’re suitable for both indoor and outdoor work, multi-directional forklifts reduce or eliminate the need for keeping multiple vehicles onsite, which minimizes the size of the company’s fleet. Multi-directional vehicles also free up storage space and improve overall operating efficiency. Some examples of multi-directional forklifts are those made by Combilift, Manitou and Bendi.

Becoming a Certified Side Loader Forklift Operator

The fastest, most convenient and affordable way to certify side lift operators is through’s online forklift operator training. Our 100% OSHA-approved program can train and certify your employees in as little as an hour using a smartphone, tablet, laptop or other digital device. All class materials are available online 24/7, so training can be completed any time and anywhere that’s convenient, so long as there’s an internet connection available. CertifyMe graduates also receive free three year renewal training, which OSHA requires every three years. To get started today, contact us online or call us at 1-888-699-4800.

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