The Rules and Regulations Governing Forklift Truck Operation in the UK

Val Watson
Authored by Val Watson
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2022 - 5:34am

The United Kingdom has some of the strictest health and safety legislation in the world. Strict rules are in place to ensure that businesses provide employees and members of the public with adequate protection in dangerous environments. Although people quite like to sneer at some of the more ridiculous HSE-authored rulings, the vast majority of them are very sensible indeed. All places of work are caught in a web of responsibility.

Forklift trucks – officially referred to as lift trucks in the UK – are incredibly popular workplace utility vehicles. They feature two ‘forks’ that are perfect for lifting the heavy pallets on which many warehoused items are stored. Most forklifts use a counterbalance to reduce the amount of power needed to lift heavy objects. Forklift trucks can be dangerous. Anybody who has spent any amount of time on the internet is likely to have seen at least one video of a catastrophic accident. These vehicles are involved in about one quarter of all workplace transport accidents. The government has developed strict rules and regulations for forklift operations in order to curb the number of dangerous incidents. Here is a guide to them.


All lift truck operators need to be trained before they can work using these vehicles. This training should ideally be given by a member of a voluntarily accredited training organisation. Although this is not legally necessary, it will open up more opportunities for jobs in the future due to the trusted nature of these organisations. Training should be monitored, assessed, and regularly refreshed. If an employer refuses to give an employee refresher training after three years, they may be found to be in breach of the law. If a person is renting from a forklift hire company, they may need to show proof of their training being up to date. Click here to see how forklift hire works in the UK.


To start training to be forklift certified in the UK, a person must be of the minimum school leaving age – currently 16. If the forklift is going to be operated in a port environment, then the minimum age for training is 18. This is due to the dangerous conditions in ports and the often heavy-duty forklifts involved in work there.


Documentation released by the HSE mandates the regular maintenance of forklift trucks. Poorly maintained vehicles are far more likely to be involved in accidents – especially when carrying heavy loads. Pre-shift checks have to be conducted every single time a forklift is used. These checks – for damage to tyres, cracks in the forks, and a great deal more – are essential. More thorough maintenance should be carried out based on the amount of hours a vehicle has been logged as having been used. Maintenance guidelines differ according to the unique design of each truck. Combustion-powered trucks, for instance, require different regular checks than electrically powered examples.

If you are a forklift operator or owner, you need to know the rules and regulations surrounding them. This article gives you a brief rundown of the basics you need to keep in mind.

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