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Forklift Ramp Slope Incline Requirements & Safety Guidelines

Forklift Ramp Slope Incline Requirements & Safety Guidelines

OSHA’s forklift ramp safety guidelines require you to follow certain rules while operating on an incline or decline to prevent tipovers and to keep operators safe.

If you need to use dock ramps or other types of forklift ramps safely, this post details slope gradeability, safe direction of travel on a ramp, and common mistakes you should avoid.

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OSHA Forklift Ramp Slope Requirements

osha forklift ramp slope requirements

OSHA 1910.178(n)(7) lists the forklift safety requirements when drivers operate on slopes:

  • 1910.178(n)(7): Regardless of the grade, operators must drive slowly when both ascending and descending.
  • 1910.178(n)(7)(i): Regardless of whether you’re carrying heavy loads or lighter ones, when traveling both up and down ramps at a grade of more than 10%, you must drive with the load upgrade, if your forklift is loaded.
  • 1910.178(n)(7)(iii): Regardless of the grade, you should tilt your load back and raise it just enough to clear ground level.

For more information, you can always check the forklift’s manufacturer’s guidelines on gradeability.

How to Calculate a Forklift Ramp’s Grade

how to calculate a forklifts ramp slope

To calculate the grade for a forklift ramp, divide the height of the ramp (the rise) by the length of the ramp (the run). Then multiply that number by 100.

For example, if you have a ramp that is 3 feet high (the rise) and 20 feet long (the run), you divide 3 by 20, which equals .15. When you multiply .15 by 100 you get the forklift’s ramp grade of 15%.

Material-handling equipment, such as forklifts, have gradeability ratings that indicate the maximum slope on which the equipment can safely operate at full capacity. So before driving on a ramp, check your forklift’s max gradeability rating against the ramp grade to ensure you can safely travel on the ramp at that slope.

Forklift Gradeability Examples

A forklift’s gradeability rating is the grade the machine can safely ascend or descend while at full capacity. Gradeability changes from lift to lift, depending on the varying brands and models available. Below are popular forklift models with specifications on their gradeability, load capacity, and travel speed on ramps.

Brand and model Max gradeability (full load) Max gradeability (no load) Load capacity (lb) Max travel speed with a full load (mph)
Toyota 8FBC15U 36V 20% 21% 3,000 11.5
Toyota 8FBCHU25 36V 21% 24% 5,000 9.6
Toyota 8FBCU30 36V 17% 20% 6,000 9
Hyster H80FT 29% 27% 8,000 12.2
Hyster H90FT 27% 25% 9,000 12.2
Cat EP14N2T 27% 35% 3,086 9.94
Cat EP16CN2T 27% 35% 3,527 9.94
Cat EP18CN2T 26% 35% 3,968 9.94


How Should You Drive on a Forklift Ramp?

how should you drive on a forklift ramp slope

Forklift operators should follow OSHA’s guidelines when operating a forklift on a ramp. Traveling a ramp incorrectly could cause a forklift to tip over or cause the load to fall. So follow these safety tips when traveling with or without a load:

Going up the ramp with a load:

  • The forklift should travel forwards (up the incline).
  • The forks should be facing the upgrade.

Going down the ramp with a load:

  • The forklift should travel in reverse (down the incline).
  • The forks should be facing the upgrade.

Going up the ramp without a load:

  • The forklift should travel in reverse (up the incline).
  • The forks should be pointed downgrade.

Going down the ramp without a load:

  • The forklift should travel forward (down the incline).
  • The forks should be pointed downgrade.

Safety Considerations When Using a Forklift Ramp

All drivers should undergo forklift training and certification to properly operate a forklift to ensure everyone’s safety. Before operating a forklift on a ramp, keep the following safety precautions in mind:

  • Drive slowly. Operate the forklift at a controlled speed so that you can easily stop the machine.
  • Take a straight on approach. Ensure the forklift approaches the ramp straight on, avoiding sharp angles.
  • Avoid sudden stops. This can cause the load to shift or the forklift to become unstable.
  • Clear the path. Ensure the ramp and surrounding area are free from obstacles, curbs, or debris.
  • Be cautious with weather conditions. Rain, snow, or ice reduce traction and can cause the machine to slide.
  • Ensure your tires have enough traction. Worn-out tires may slip or cause the underbody to get caught on hazards.
  • Know your machine’s gradeability and load limits. Operating a forklift on a slope steeper than its specified gradeability can lead to instability, tipping, or loss of load, posing significant safety risks.
  • Use a ramp with guardrails. This will prevent forklifts from veering off the edge of the ramp.
  • Conduct regular inspections and maintenance. Check the ramp and forklift for wear, damage, or obstructions before use.

Common Forklift Ramp Slope Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Even if you’ve completed safety training, it can be easy to make some common mistakes with forklift ramps. This list explains some of those errors and how to avoid them:

  • Using the wrong ramp size: If you don’t know what size ramp you need, it’s always better to use a bigger ramp than a smaller one.
  • Not having enough traction: If the lift truck cannot get enough traction on the ramp, there are anti-slip surfaces that can be attached to prevent slippage.
  • Improperly attaching the ramp: Be sure the ramp is properly connected before use. If there is a gap between the ramp and the trailer, there are specific features or accessories to close the remaining distance.
  • Not cleaning the ramp: Dust or mud can cause the forklift to slide. Always be sure the ramp is completely clear and clean.
  • Using a ramp that’s too steep: You should always be sure to keep the ramp angle close to the ground. Steep ramps can be dangerous as they can cause falls and be difficult to maneuver onto. If a ramp is too steep, don’t use it.
  • Driving the wrong direction: You should always be clear on the proper direction of travel on a forklift whether traveling up or down or carrying a load or not so you don’t injure yourself or anyone else.

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To keep you, the forklift load, and those in the surrounding area safe, you should understand how to calculate the ramp slope of a forklift ramp and ensure that it doesn’t exceed your forklift’s gradeability.

If you are in need of a forklift or forklift ramp equipment, BigRentz has several different forklift rental options available to help with your next project.


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