Health & Safety

Keep it all in

By Mark Nicholson

October 2023

How to protect lift truck operators’ limbs

Injuries caused when limbs stick out from a moving lift truck can be life-changing. Mark Nicholson explores approaches to keeping operators contained and protected.

In the classic Cat® Lift Trucks animated safety video, 7 Deadly Sins, forklift drivers are advised:

“Not being aware of your arms and legs when driving could result in serious injury. Always keep your limbs inside of the truck when moving.”

Training operators to be conscious of this hazard and to stay within the truck’s protection is vital. But how else can we protect them? Let’s look at the choices available in different lift truck categories, as illustrated by the Cat® counterbalance forklift and warehouse equipment range.

Counterbalance forklifts and reach trucks

Drivers of these trucks are normally enclosed by an overhead guard (OHG) as well as a robust chassis. An OHG may also be fitted to many of the other truck types mentioned below. Its pillars and roof bars resist the impacts of falling goods as well as collisions with racking or other obstacles. To stop loads on the forks from falling backwards toward the operator, lift trucks are often additionally equipped with a load backrest.


Stay inside the overhead guard. Truck shown: Cat EP25-35A(C)N electric counterbalance.

As long as all limbs remain within that ‘safety cage’, there’s no problem. A large, spacious operating compartment lowers the chances of an arm or leg protruding from it. In some cases, strategically positioned grab handles on the OHG pillars give extra shoulder protection. Seat belts can help by holding the driver in a central, safe place. Presence detection systems – via a seat switch or a ‘dead man’s pedal’ – are useful too. If the driver moves out of position, the truck halts.


Grab handles on Cat NR14-25N2 reach trucks give extra protection for shoulders.

Like other safety features, OHGs should be regularly checked for damage or defects. Importantly, any repair or replacement should be carried out professionally by your truck supplier. Please note, also, that if the safety policy at your workplace includes wearing hard hats, they should be worn even within the OHG.


Presence detection pedal (as in this Cat reach truck) keeps driver centrally seated.

Stand-in and sit-on stackers and power pallet trucks

The designs in these Cat warehouse truck categories place the operator safely within the dimensions of the chassis. He or she is surrounded and protected by the chassis, integrated bumper and – where present – OHG. This gives an important advantage compared to pedestrian and platform trucks. It makes operators feel safer and more confident about travelling and manoeuvring at faster speeds.


Stand-in and sit-on trucks can totally enclose the operator, for safety and confidence. Truck shown: Cat NSR12-20N2 stand-in stacker.

In Cat stand-in and sit-on trucks, an OHG is standard for the stackers and optional for the power pallets. A load backrest is an option on all. Cat stand-in power pallet models offer the extra option of an optical presence sensor. If the operator steps out of the compartment, braking is automatically applied. At the same time, this system allows smaller movements of the feet without activating the brake.


Cat NPR20-30N2 stand-in power pallets offer an optional optical presence sensor. If the operator steps out, the truck brakes.

Platform stackers and power pallet trucks

In these categories, the Cat range offers a choice between fixed and folding ride-on platforms. Its fixed platforms have a wraparound protective barrier with side or rear entry, depending on the model.


Cat NPF20-25N3 fixed platform power pallet with barrier and side entry.

With folding platforms, fold-out side bars can be used to protect against impacts and help avoid falls from the truck. These features are standard on the power pallets and optional on the stackers. When they are deployed, maximum travel speed is increased. Importantly, they must not be deployed during high lifts. Operators should be free to run from the platform if a load falls.


Side bars deployed on Cat NSV12-16N3 folding platform stacker.

An OHG is not considered necessary on platform power pallets. It comes as standard on Cat fixed platform stackers and is an option on folding platform stackers with power steering. A load backrest is optional throughout.

An optional foot protection system is available on Cat fixed platform stackers and power pallets with rear entry. This uses a safety light curtain principle to detect when a foot strays outside the platform. In response, it slows down and stops the truck.


Cat NPF20-25N3R fixed platform power pallet with rear entry offers a foot protection system option.

Order pickers

In all Cat order pickers, the whole floor mat acts as a presence detector. If the operator steps off it, and out of the protected compartment, the truck stops. Cat low-level order pickers can, in addition, be operated in walk-beside mode, with travel speed automatically limited.


Floor mat acts as a presence detector on all Cat order pickers. Truck shown: Cat NO12-25N2 low-level order picker.

Cat second-level, medium-level and high-level order pickers also feature the SecurGate system. This guards against stepping out of the operator compartment at height. It prevents truck operation if the side gates are open when the operator is raised above a certain level. Audible and on-screen warnings (optional on second-level order pickers and standard on others) are given if the operator’s platform is lifted with its gates open. An OHG is standard for medium and high levels, and an option for second level.


SecurGate side gate system on Cat NOM10P and NOH12P medium-level and high-level order pickers.

Find out more

For further information on the safety features of Cat forklifts and warehouse trucks, visit the website