Forklift Safety Blog #2: Rear End Swing

Have you ever noticed that the back of a forklift is usually missing paint? Did you ever notice that the same color paint magically appears on poles, beams, walls and racks in the driving area? If you ask around, nobody seems more surprised than the operator! Is it a mystery that defies the laws of physics that causes this? No, it’s called “rear end swing”.

Most forklifts (especially a counterbalance sit down type) have the turning wheels in the back of the forklift. They will act very different than the vehicles the operators have driven before (tricycle, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile) which have the turning wheels in front. For example: on a forklift with the wheel turned all the way to the left, it will pivot on the front left tire and the back end will rotate around in a much larger circle. This very tight turning feature allows a forklift to be very useful in small areas and allows for narrower isles.

The operator needs to be aware that when turning and driving forward, the back of the forklift will move very fast compared to the front and can be the first point of impact. It is easy to misjudge how quickly this can happen. Forklifts are rounded on the back to allow for tighter corners and to reduce the impact damage.

This fast unexpected movement is called the “rear end swing” and it is the mysterious way the paint moves from the forklift. Stay safe!

Todd Banks, founder of TJB Safety Training and co-founder of RB Innovative Products, has been successfully training forklift operators since 1988.

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