Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to forklifts and other powered industrial trucks occur in U.S. workplaces. Many employees are injured when: struck by a forklift; forklifts are inadvertently driven off loading docks; forklifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; or forklifts fall while on elevated pallets and tines. Most incidents also involve property damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and machinery. Statistics indicate that most employee injuries and property damage are attributable to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate training.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigations of forklift-related deaths indicate that many workers and employers may not be aware of the risks of operating or working near forklifts and are not following the procedures set forth in OSHA standards, consensus standards, or equipment manufacturer’s guidelines. Generally, reducing the risk of forklift incidents requires comprehensive worker training, systematic traffic management, a safe work environment, a safe forklift, and safe work practices.
What Standards Apply?
Those facilities in the cleaning industry that use forklifts and other powered industrial trucks, such as manufacturing plants and distributor warehouses, must comply with the OSHA Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training Standard, and the pertinent provisions of the OSHA General Industry Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, the links to which are set forth below.
OSHA has also issued an Instruction on the Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training Standard. While intended as a guide to OSHA compliance officers, it also provides valuable compliance assistance to employers and employees.
What Do the Standards Require?
Powered industrial trucks. It is important to note that the term “powered industrial truck” is defined by OSHA to include, but is not limited to, forklifts, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motor or internal combustion engines. The term does not include compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas-operated industrial trucks, farm vehicles, or vehicles that are intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road handling.
Operator training. OSHA requires that operators of powered industrial trucks be trained in the safe operation of such vehicles before they are allowed to operate them independently. The training must consist of instruction in proper vehicle operation, the hazards of operating the vehicle in the workplace, and the requirements of the OSHA standard for powered industrial trucks.
Operator evaluation. Employers must then evaluate operators who have completed training while they operate the vehicle in the workplace. Employers must also periodically evaluate operators (at least once every three years) to ensure that their skills remain at a high level. Employers must provide operators with refresher training whenever there is a demonstrated need for it.
Covered employees. Please note that employers must train all employees who operate powered industrial trucks including those that have other duties but sometimes operate a powered industrial truck.
General safety. In addition, OSHA’s General Industry Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks sets forth safety requirements relating to fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.