Forklift drivers have to get in and out of their vehicles frequently and may, therefore, either resist or forget to put on their seat belts. Even worse, they may develop a habit of not using seat belts. Many forklifts, especially those designed for indoor use, give the impression that they are toy vehicles with no danger inherent in operating them. This may also be a reason why some drivers, especially beginners, neglect wearing seat belts while operating forklifts.
The fact is that even the smallest forklift weighs more than a car. They also have a higher, much higher, center of gravity. Additionally, to allow maneuvering in tight spaces, the rear axle of a forklift is mounted on a pin. This reduces the effective base area of the forklift to that of a triangle. In other words, forklifts are far more unstable than a car and can tip over quite easily.
When a forklift starts to tip, the natural and instinctive reaction of a driver is to jump. However, the high center of gravity and the weight of the forklift tend to cause the vehicle to come down hard and fast. The safety cage, placed there to protect the forklift operator under normal circumstances, now becomes a barrier that prevents the driver from jumping clear.
When a forklift tips over, the safest place for the driver is inside the cage. And, it is only the seat belt that can counter the instinct to jump while holding the driver in the safety of the seat and within the cage.
The short video below, released by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, drives home the message graphically and forcefully.
Forklift Driver Safety — The importance of wearing seat belts
(Video by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries)