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What is a Spotter?

Posted by: admin on May 16, 2019

(Updated February 2021)

When operators fail to handle a forklift properly, it can tip over. For example, driving with too much weight or an unbalanced load can cause a tip-over. Extending the forks too far can also cause a tip-over. 

As a result of these and other operator mistakes, forklifts can cause serious damage. That’s why OSHA recommends having a spotter work in concert with the truck operator.

What Is a Spotter? Here’s What You Need to Know 

A forklift spotter acts as a second pair of eyes and ears for the driver. The spotter stands near the forklift and feeds information to the driver. That way, forklift spotting ensures that the driver can receive information about things they are unable to see or hear. 

Spotters are sometimes referred to as observers, signalers, and guides. Meanwhile, spotter requirements vary based on the job. 

Regardless of what they’re called or where they work, forklift spotters are key contributors. With spotters in place, your business is well-equipped to prevent forklift accidents.

Forklift Spotting Responsibilities

Forklift spotting is a complex job, and those who want to become spotters must complete a comprehensive training program. This is due to the fact that forklift spotters have many responsibilities.

A forklift spotter ensures that a truck operator lifts a load properly and moves it to the correct location. This includes ensuring that the load is balanced, so it won’t fall off a lift. Once the forklift is being driven, the spotter ensures that it doesn’t hit any people or objects as well.

Common Forklift Spotter Requirements

Forklift spotter job duties include:

  • Directing a travel route when a driver’s vision is blocked.
  • Directing the positioning of a load on the forks while it is being lifted. 
  • Watching for drop-offs, overhead wires, piping, and other hazards when lifting and driving a lift.
  • Keeping pedestrians away from hazardous areas and travel paths.
  • Following a forklift on roads to protect the lift and other vehicles.

Indoor work sites can be noisy, to the point where excess noise can make it tough for forklift operators to communicate with their coworkers and managers. Outside, spotters use signals that prove to be better options than voice commands. Before starting a job, a spotter needs to ensure the operator understands the signals that will be used.

Forklift Spotting Risks

Although forklift spotting may seem simple, it can be risky. Back-over incidents in which a forklift operator inadvertently strikes a spotter can be fatal. But, a spotter who understands the risks associated with spotting a forklift is well-equipped to avoid these incidents.

One of the best things a forklift spotter can do to minimize risk: work with a forklift operator. This enables a spotter to understand an operator’s perspective. At the same time, it allows both the spotter and operator to ensure a work task is completing without putting anyone at risk.

Keeping the lines of communication with a forklift operator can be beneficial, too. If a lift spotter identifies any dangers, he or she can quickly notify the operator. This allows the operator to minimize the risk of accidents and avoid putting the spotter or others in danger.

Can Anyone Become a Forklift Spotter?

Much in the same way that certification is required to operate a forklift, a lift spotter needs proper training. Because, if a spotter learns the ins and outs of helping an operator maneuver a forklift, he or she can minimize the risk of lift accidents and injuries across a job site.

Generally, forklift spotters can benefit from operator training as well. They can use the training to learn the duties of spotters and operators alike. Plus, the training gives them an opportunity to ask questions about forklift spotting and gain the insights they need to become expert spotters.

A Closer Look at Forklift Spotter Training

OSHA regulations often require a spotter to be at a job site. Regardless of OSHA requirements, it is usually a good idea to have a trained spotter on hand.

Forklift spotter training involves learning to drive a forklift, and the best spotters often double as forklift operators. On the flip side, the best drivers are often the best spotters.

Also, forklift spotter training covers load-lifting techniques. On the job, spotters tell operators when and how to lift a load. Operators know how to do this, but they don’t always have the best view of the load. Having a second pair of eyes can make loading and lifting safer and easier. Having a spotter is vital when a load is on a high rack, too. In this scenario, even a small mistake could cause the load to fall and result in an accident, injury, or fatality.

The spotter’s job is to keep those working around the forklift safe. But, spotters are also at risk, and they need to prioritize workplace safety.

Forklift Spotter Safety Tips

Best practices for forklift spotter safety include:

  • Ensure the spotter and driver agree on hand signals before backing up a forklift.
  • Ensure the spotter maintains constant visual contact with the driver while the vehicle is backing up.
  • Stop backing a forklift immediately if the spotter is no longer visible.
  • Avoid multitasking, and instead, focus exclusively on the driver and task.
  • Do not use mobile phones, headphones, or other items that could distract a spotter.
  • Wear highly visible clothing, especially at night.

Along with the aforementioned safety tips, forklift spotters should also use hand signals to communicate with drivers.

Spotter Hand Signals

Forklift operators and spotters must learn hand signals for nonverbal communication. For example, they must know how to signal commands like “back up,” “slow down,” “move forward,” “stop,” and more.

Forklift Spotting for Heavy Equipment

The need for forklift spotters extends beyond indoor jobs. Many outdoor jobs, such as construction sites, can benefit from having spotters, and any job that uses aerial lifts, earthmovers, and other heavy equipment should have a spotter.

Spotters are essential when working around overhead structures, steel columns, and live power lines. Tight spaces and narrow paths can make it tough to work, and a travel route may include rough terrain or temporary access roads that are difficult to navigate. In these cases, a spotter can improve safety and help prevent accidents.

Heavy equipment spotters have the same basic duties as forklift spotters. They help guide aerial lift and equipment operators when they are moving their vehicles. Heavy equipment spotters also scan the ground to look for trip or fall hazards and ensure workers stay clear of travel paths.

A forklift spotter and operator should engage in safety planning before they start a job. First, they should agree on hand signals and review the planned travel route.

Safety Best Practices for Heavy Equipment Spotters

Heavy equipment spotters should use the following safety best practices:

  • Wear highly visible clothing.
  • Avoid walking into the path of a vehicle, moving equipment, or a swinging load.
  • Avoid walking behind heavy equipment and spotting at the same time.
  • Stand where an aerial lift or equipment is going and flag it back.
  • Scan a worksite and remove hazards before starting a job.
  • Ensure a forklift driver stops if he or she loses sight of the spotter.
  • Focus solely on
  • Do not use personal mobile phones, headphones, or other items that could be distracting.

When planning for a job, a forklift spotter and operator should see if they can eliminate the need to back up. If not, they should do what they can to minimize back-ups.

Furthermore, if a spotter has never operated an aerial lift or other heavy equipment, he or she should discuss any blind spots with the driver. This will help prevent the spotter from accidentally walking into a blind spot.

Want to Teach Your Employees About Forklift Spotting? Can Help

Forklift spotting is crucial for businesses that want to maintain safe worksites. If spotters understand their day-to-day responsibilities, they can help forklift operators complete various tasks without putting themselves or others in danger. Plus, spotters can contribute to a safe work environment and help a business maximize its productivity.

At, we offer a training program to teach workers how to safely use a forklift. Our training program complies with OSHA regulations, and it allows employees to gain the insights they need to safely spot, operate a forklift, and identify on-the-job hazards. It also enables workers to engage with forklift safety experts, ask questions, and learn what it takes to minimize the risk of workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities. is available to discuss our forklift safety training program. To learn more or to sign up for our program, please contact us online or call us today at 1-888-699-4800.

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