How to Make a Manlift for a Forklift

Using a manlift work platform with a forklift allows workers to reach difficult areas without having to construct scaffolding or deal with the risks of working from a ladder. There are some very stringent rules for making a manlift for a forklift to keep the workers in the lift safe and to protect the operator of the forklift. Taking shortcuts in constructing a mobile work platform for a forklift could result in serious injury or death. Better to follow the guidelines below and make sure your manlift is safe and constructed according to OSHA requirements.

  1. Set your platform in place on the forks. Depending on the total weight you anticipate supporting on your manlift, use metal or wood to form your lifting platform. The platform must slide over the forks and be constructed so that it doesn't move from side to side. The best way to design your platform is to make two channels between an upper and lower layer into which the forks are inserted. This prevents the platform from having any sideways movement. Once your platform is constructed, add nonskid treads to the surface.

  2. Attach the railings to your platform. Again, the material you use for your railings will depend on the amount of weight anticipated on the manlift. The railings must be able to withstand the weight of all the workers and material in the manlift suddenly falling against the railing support. When in doubt, go with the stronger material. Your railings must have a top rail at least 35.4 inches and no more than 41.4 inches off the working surface (where the worker is standing). Your railing must also have a midrail set at 20.4 inches above the working surface.

  3. Attach the toe boards (flat boards) to your railing. The lower 4.9 inches of your railing must be completely covered with a toe board to prevent tools or materials from inadvertently falling off the manlift. It is acceptable to run a metal screen from the top rail to the working surface to replace the need for the toe board.

  4. Attach a hinged door for access to the platform. This door must also have some kind of locking mechanism. The door needs to fulfill the height and protection requirements as described for the railings.

  5. Use hoist-rated cable and cable clamps to attach the back face of the working platform (the back rail) to the carriage of the forklift. You must do this in a manner strong and tight enough so that the manlift cannot slide forward at all on the forks.

  6. Snip a few pieces of tie wire and use them to attach a blank metal sign to the outside of your manlift. With a permanent marker write down the weight limit that your manlift can support, the number of workers allowed in it and the type of forklift for which you have constructed it. Do this is in large and heavy letters so it is very noticeable to anyone approaching your manlift.


  • Only qualified and trained operators should be allowed to operate a forklift with a manlift attached to it, and under no circumstances should the forklift travel with workers in the manlift. The potential for accidents if care is not taken while working with a manlift is enormous, so take every precaution to keep your workers safe.

About the Author

Cassandra Tribe has worked in the construction field for over 17 years and has experience in a variety of mechanical, scientific, automotive and mathematical forms. She has been writing and editing for over 10 years. Her areas of interest include culture and society, automotive, computers, business, the Internet, science and structural engineering and implementation.