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Posted by Stephanie on January 2, 2023

While forklift ramps are used in many different settings, they are most commonly seen at construction sites and industrial facilities. These ramps are able to help you move different items and materials between separate levels. They can also be positioned around the interiors and exteriors of a building.

Even though forklift ramps are an effective method for transporting goods, there are also a few risks involved if they aren’t used correctly. When you need to use one of these ramps, make sure that you select one that matches the size of your forklift. These ramps are available in many different slopes and sizes, which is why it’s important to select one that matches your equipment.

It’s also essential that the ramp is checked before it’s used. Look for any cracks or similar types of damage that might lead to a collapse. When you’re driving the forklift, do so slowly as you go down or up the ramp. A sudden turn or stop could result in the load shifting and falling over. The following guide takes a more in-depth look at the design of forklift ramps and some safety tips you should adhere to when using them.

mobile yard ramp

What is a Forklift Ramp?

A forklift ramp involves any product that provides a forklift with the ability to travel across a specific space. In many cases, a ramp will allow the forklift to position itself at a greater height. The capacity, width, and length of a forklift ramp depend on the exact project that the forklift is being used for. A dock board or curb ramp can be just 3-4 feet in length. In comparison, mobile yard ramps can be upwards of 30-40 feet in length.

OSHA Forklift Ramp Design and Safety Requirements

The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed by the U.S. Congress in 1970 to maintain healthy and safe working conditions for workers by creating and enforcing standards. They also provide education, assistance, and training in this regard.

Because of the risks associated with using a forklift ramp, OSHA has created guidelines and safety requirements for the use of these ramps. OSHA states that any area where a forklift operates that’s larger than an angle of 10 degrees is a slope, incline, or ramp. When you drive a forklift over a ramp, OSHA has set the following guidelines:

  • The load that’s being hauled must be tilted backwards across every grade, if possible. The load can only be raised by as much as needed to continue driving the forklift without issue.
  • All grades need to be descended or ascended slowly.
  • When you drive a forklift on a grade that’s higher than 10%, the load you’re carrying must face upward no matter which direction the forklift is moving.

You can identify the angle of a ramp with a simple equation, which is rise over run and multiply the result by 100. The rise of the ramp’s slope should be divided by the ramp’s length. If you have a ramp that has a slope of 120 inches, divide 12 by 120, which equals 0.1. You can then multiply this result by 100 to arrive at 10. Your angle will be 10 degrees, which means that the OSHA safety guidelines apply.

forklift ramp

How to Operate a Forklift on an Incline or Ramp

Operating a forklift on even a small incline can be a challenge even if you have ample amounts of experience. When you complete safety training, you should learn about all of the risks that occur when you drive on an incline.

If you want to operate this vehicle on an incline, you should also take a look at the forklift’s operations manual. The forklift you operate determines what the maximum slope limit has been set to. Make sure you identify the lift’s gradeability as well, which is the grade at which a forklift is able to stop and climb at full capacity. In most cases, the highest gradeability that a forklift can have is around 40%.

All forklift drivers should pay strict attention to OSHA requirements when operating a forklift on an incline. For instance, OSHA states that all lift operators will need to maintain a slow speed when traveling on an incline. Even if your forklift isn’t currently carrying anything, these guidelines apply.

forklift ascending ramp

How Ramps Affect Forklifts

There’s a good reason why OSHA maintains safety guidelines and regulations for forklift operators. When you climb excessive grades with a forklift, several aspects of the machine can be negatively impacted, which include:

  • Longevity
  • Reliability
  • Fuel consumption
  • Component temperature
  • Battery cycle time

It’s also important that a forklift is able to descend a ramp while carrying heavy loads. Following the OSHA guidelines should keep you safe.

Forklift Gradeability

Every forklift comes with a gradeability rating, which applies to the make and model of the forklift. These ratings are supplied directly by the manufacturer. As mentioned previously, gradeability identifies the exact grade a machine can climb and stop on with a heavy load. Certain forklifts have a gradeability rating of 20%, which is right around 12 degrees. There are, however, certain rough-terrain forklifts that come with a gradeability rating of 30-40%.

forklift gradeability


When you’re attempting to identify the degree or angle you can operate a forklift at, you may need to convert from percentage to a degree. You can also calculate percentage by measuring your ramp’s length and height at the facility where it’s being used. A gradeability rating of 40% amounts to a slope of 22 degrees.

Forklift Ramp Safety: Smart Ramp Design

Ramps can be designed with OSHA ramp requirements in mind, which should reduce the possibility of forklift injuries, accidents, and deaths. Outfitting loading dock ramps with safety features should keep these issues at bay as well. There are several safety features that are already placed into most ramps, which include everything from high-traction surfaces to tall ramp curbs.

1. High-traction Surfaces

Forklifts are commonly used on loading docks. During operations, they may be exposed to inclement weather, which may eventually result in the loading docks becoming oily. If a building ramp is equipped with open steel grading, moisture buildup should be kept to a minimum, which makes it easier for forklift wheels to gain the traction they require for safe operation.

2. Low-angle Slopes

When driving on a steep ramp, there’s a higher risk of losing a load or having the forklift tip over. If the ramp is designed to be longer, the grade will be shallower, which can reduce potential hazards.

3. Tall Ramp Curbs

When operating a forklift, you should always maintain a proper distance from the ramp’s edge. If you don’t, having steel curbs along the ramp’s edge could allow for enhanced protection.

4. Extra Anchorage

It’s possible for accidents to take place if dock plates or ramps shift while a forklift is on there. Increasing the total number of anchors that are placed at ground level can reduce the amount of shifting that occurs.

Forklift Ramp Safety FAQs

If you’re not sure how to educate your employees about how to safely use forklifts while driving on ramps, here are some answers to the most common ramp safety questions.

How Should a Forklift Go Up a Ramp?

When you drive a forklift up a ramp slope, the machine should always be pointed straight forward. If you slightly pivot to the right or left, a tip-over can occur. In the event that you’re carrying a load, the forks should always be pointed uphill. When you’re not carrying a load, the forks should be pointed downhill even as you drive up the ramp.

What Is the Maximum Slope for a Forklift Ramp?

OSHA guidelines state that ramps shouldn’t be inclined higher than a slope of a single vertical to three horizontal, which means that it shouldn’t be 20 degrees above horizontal. Your manufacturer’s guide should give you an idea of the maximum slope you can drive on.

Can a Forklift Go Down a Ramp?

All forklift ramps provide operators with the ability to travel up and down. As you travel down a ramp without a load, you should do so in reverse with the lift’s forks being pointed downward.

Can You Turn a Forklift on a Slope?

Never turn your forklift when you’re on a slope. Keeping your wheels pointed straight should allow you to avoid injuries and accidents.

How Long Does It Take to Stop a Forklift on a Ramp?

If you’re driving on a flat surface, the forklift you’re operating will need around 16 feet of space to come to a stop when driving at seven miles her hour. Give yourself additional space for a stop when driving on a decline or incline.

Why Choose QMH?

Here at QMH, our material handling and storage specialists have the expertise and knowledge required to answer all of your forklift ramp inquiries. If you’re designing a new facility with forklift ramps, we can join your project in an advisory capacity to make sure that everything meets OSHA compliance. Our services can also help your business save on operational costs, reduce project timelines, maximize efficiency, and increase capacity. Call us today if you have any questions about forklift ramps and how they can be used in your facility.

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