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12 Forklift Hand Signals Every Operator Should Know

12 Forklift Hand Signals Every Operator Should Know

Forklift signals let operators communicate with spotters while moving heavy loads. In loud, cramped environments, these signals ensure clear communication with anyone behind the wheel of a forklift. Every year, 11 percent of forklifts will get into a workplace accident. As such, hand signals for forklift operators play a key role in workplace safety.

Most companies use the seven standardized OSHA forklift hand signals. These gestures all correlate to a forklift’s main components — in particular, they target a forklift’s tines, mast and brakes. Generally, operators only follow instructions from a spotter, but anyone on a work site may call an emergency stop.

OSHA Forklift Hand Signals

Raise the Tines

This signal tells operators to lift their forks, also known as tines. Forklifts raise their tines when lifting materials to a higher elevation. Once the tines are high enough, operators can safely transfer materials. And from this position, forklifts can set loads with greater precision.

Lower the Tines

Operators lower the tines when bringing their forks closer to the ground. From a lower elevation, their tines can pick up new materials. Spotters also use this signal when telling operators to place their loads.

Move the Tines

This is the last forklift signal relating to its tines. It tells the operator to adjust their tines more to the left or right. This change in position allows the forklift to better distribute the weight from its load. Alternatively, it lets the operator adjust the material before placing it.

Tilt Mast Forward

Spotters use this signal when operators need to angle the end of their mast lower to the floor. From this position, materials can easily slide forward onto the ground. When the mast tilts forward, crew members can also remove a load by hand.

Tilt Mast Back


This signal angles the end of a mast higher off the ground. When an operator drives their forklift, a mast that’s tilted back has a more secure grip on the load. It also stabilizes weight distribution, preventing a forklift from tipping forward.

Dog Everything


Dog everything is a signal telling the forklift operator to pause. Spotters use it when an unexpected safety hazard appears but hasn’t caused harm yet. If a person or object obstructs a forklift’s path, this signal halts movement until the operator can continue.

Emergency Stop

Spotters call an emergency stop when facing imminent danger or after an accident occurs. This signal immediately ceases operations until the crew deals with their emergency. Unlike other forklift signals, operators must follow an emergency stop order from anyone on the work site.

Other Common Forklift Signals

The seven OSHA forklift hand signals meet most industry standards. But outside of this list, spotters use other forklift signals to communicate with operators. While not all teams recognize them, these signals allow for more precise communication. And depending on the project, they can help prevent hazards and accidents.

Raise/Lower Slowly


Similar to raising and lowering the tines, these signals tell operators to adjust their forks’ height. But unlike the standard OSHA signal, it encourages slower movement.

Move Forward/Back


These signals tell the operator to continue moving forward or to back up. Operators follow this instruction to put their forklift in an ideal position to pick up or drop their load.

This Far To Go


Spotters use this signal to show the remaining distance operators need to travel. The distance between their hands indicates how far the forklift needs to move.

Honk the Horn

honk the horn

When approaching corners, intersections, blind spots, other devices or pedestrians, operators sound the horn to prevent a collision. Unlike hand signals from spotters, operators sound the horn for others’ safety. Anyone working near a forklift should steer clear when they hear its horn.

Downloadable Forklift Signal PDF Chart

These forklift signals all communicate a straightforward action. But without learning each signal’s corresponding motion, spotters and operators put their coworkers in danger. Graphs and tables like the one below can help with memorization — they summarize each hand signal in an easy-to-follow movement.

Download Signals PDF

Forklift accidents represent some of the worst hazards employees face on a job site. But thanks to OSHA’s forklift hand signals, spotters can ensure an entire crew’s safety. These signals won’t only protect companies from thousands of dollars in damages — they can also preserve the health and safety of everyone lifting materials.

Safe working conditions require more than a well-trained team. Crews also need reliable equipment. That’s why BigRentz offers the best deals on top-of-the-line forklift rentals. Whether operators need the equipment for a day or a month, BigRentz can help select the perfect model for the job.

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