OSHA Forklift Operation Safety Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides some fairly specific forklift operation safety standards and requires that all operators follow them. This information was taken directly from OSHA’s website and was accurate as of December of 2012. While historically these standards are rarely updated (the last update was in 2006) we do recommend you review their site for the most up to date information.

  • Trucks shall not be driven up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object.
  • No person shall be allowed to stand or pass under the elevated portion of any truck, whether loaded or empty.
  • Unauthorized personnel shall not be permitted to ride on powered industrial trucks. A safe place to ride shall be provided where riding of trucks is authorized.
  • The employer shall prohibit arms or legs from being placed between the uprights of the mast or outside the running lines of the truck.
  • When a powered industrial truck is left unattended, load engaging means shall be fully lowered, controls shall be neutralized, power shall be shut off, and brakes set. Wheels shall be blocked if the truck is parked on an incline.
  • A powered industrial truck is unattended when the operator is 25 feet or more away from the vehicle which remains in his view, or whenever the operator leaves the vehicle and it is not in his view.
  • When the operator of an industrial truck is dismounted and within 25 ft. of the truck still in his view, the load engaging means shall be fully lowered, controls neutralized, and the brakes set to prevent movement.
  • A safe distance shall be maintained from the edge of ramps or platforms while on any elevated dock, or platform or freight car. Trucks shall not be used for opening or closing freight doors.
  • Brakes shall be set and wheel blocks shall be in place to prevent movement of trucks, trailers, or railroad cars while loading or unloading. Fixed jacks may be necessary to support a semitrailer during loading or unloading when the trailer is not coupled to a tractor. The flooring of trucks, trailers, and railroad cars shall be checked for breaks and weakness before they are driven onto.
  • There shall be sufficient headroom under overhead installations, lights, pipes, sprinkler system, etc.
  • An overhead guard shall be used as protection against falling objects. It should be noted that an overhead guard is intended to offer protection from the impact of small packages, boxes, bagged material, etc., representative of the job application, but not to withstand the impact of a falling capacity load.
  • A load backrest extension shall be used whenever necessary to minimize the possibility of the load or part of it from falling rearward.
  • Only approved industrial trucks shall be used in hazardous locations.
  • Fire aisles, access to stairways, and fire equipment shall be kept clear.
  • All traffic regulations shall be observed, including authorized plant speed limits. A safe distance shall be maintained approximately three truck lengths from the truck ahead, and the truck shall be kept under control at all times.
  • The right of way shall be yielded to ambulances, fire trucks, or other vehicles in emergency situations.
  • Other trucks traveling in the same direction at intersections, blind spots, or other dangerous locations shall not be passed.
  • The driver shall be required to slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed. If the load being carried obstructs forward view, the driver shall be required to travel with the load trailing.
  • Railroad tracks shall be crossed diagonally wherever possible. Parking closer than 8 feet from the center of railroad tracks is prohibited.
  • The driver shall be required to look in the direction of, and keep a clear view of the path of travel.
  • Grades shall be ascended or descended slowly.
  • When ascending or descending grades in excess of 10 percent, loaded trucks shall be driven with the load upgrade.
  • On all grades the load and load engaging means shall be tilted back if applicable, and raised only as far as necessary to clear the road surface.
  • Under all travel conditions the truck shall be operated at a speed that will permit it to be brought to a stop in a safe manner.
  • Stunt driving and horseplay shall not be permitted.
  • The driver shall be required to slow down for wet and slippery floors.
  • Dockboard or bridgeplates, shall be properly secured before they are driven over.
  • Dockboard or bridgeplates shall be driven over carefully and slowly and their rated capacity never exceeded.
  • Elevators shall be approached slowly, and then entered squarely after the elevator car is properly leveled. Once on the elevator, the controls shall be neutralized, power shut off, and the brakes set.
  • Motorized hand trucks must enter elevator or other confined areas with load end forward.
  • Running over loose objects on the roadway surface shall be avoided.
  • While negotiating turns, speed shall be reduced to a safe level by means of turning the hand steering wheel in a smooth, sweeping motion. Except when maneuvering at a very low speed, the hand steering wheel shall be turned at a moderate, even rate.
  • Only stable or safely arranged loads shall be handled. Caution shall be exercised when handling off-center loads which cannot be centered.
  • Only loads within the rated capacity of the truck shall be handled.
  • The long or high (including multiple-tiered) loads which may affect capacity shall be adjusted.
  • Trucks equipped with attachments shall be operated as partially loaded trucks when not handling a load.
  • A load engaging means shall be placed under the load as far as possible; the mast shall be carefully tilted backward to stabilize the load.
  • Extreme care shall be used when tilting the load forward or backward, particularly when high tiering. Tilting forward with load engaging means elevated shall be prohibited except to pick up a load. An elevated load shall not be tilted forward except when the load is in a deposit position over a rack or stack. When stacking or tiering, only enough backward tilt to stabilize the load shall be used.
  • If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition.
  • Fuel tanks shall not be filled while the engine is running. Spillage shall be avoided.
  • Spillage of oil or fuel shall be carefully washed away or completely evaporated and the fuel tank cap replaced before restarting engine.
  • No truck shall be operated with a leak in the fuel system until the leak has been corrected.
  • Open flames shall not be used for checking electrolyte level in storage batteries or gasoline level in fuel tanks.
  • Any power-operated industrial truck not in safe operating condition shall be removed from service. All repairs shall be made by authorized personnel.
  • No repairs shall be made in Class I, II, and III locations.
  • Those repairs to the fuel and ignition systems of industrial trucks which involve fire hazards shall be conducted only in locations designated for such repairs.
  • Trucks in need of repairs to the electrical system shall have the battery disconnected prior to such repairs.
  • All parts of any such industrial truck requiring replacement shall be replaced only by parts equivalent as to safety with those used in the original design.
  • Industrial trucks shall not be altered so that the relative positions of the various parts are different from what they were when originally received from the manufacturer, nor shall they be altered either by the addition of extra parts not provided by the manufacturer or by the elimination of any parts, except as provided in paragraph (q)(12) of this section. Additional counterweighting of fork trucks shall not be done unless approved by the truck manufacturer.
  • Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service, and shall not be placed in service if the examination shows any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle. Such examination shall be made at least daily. Where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift. Defects when found shall be immediately reported and corrected.
  • Water mufflers shall be filled daily or as frequently as is necessary to prevent depletion of the supply of water below 75 percent of the filled capacity. Vehicles with mufflers having screens or other parts that may become clogged shall not be operated while such screens or parts are clogged. Any vehicle that emits hazardous sparks or flames from the exhaust system shall immediately be removed from service, and not returned to service until the cause for the emission of such sparks and flames has been eliminated.
  • When the temperature of any part of any truck is found to be in excess of its normal operating temperature, thus creating a hazardous condition, the vehicle shall be removed from service and not returned to service until the cause for such overheating has been eliminated.
  • Industrial trucks shall be kept in a clean condition, free of lint, excess oil, and grease. Noncombustible agents should be used for cleaning trucks. Low flash point (below 100 deg. F.) solvents shall not be used. High flash point (at or above 100 deg. F.) solvents may be used. Precautions regarding toxicity, ventilation, and fire hazard shall be consonant with the agent or solvent used.
  • Industrial trucks originally approved for the use of gasoline for fuel may be converted to liquefied petroleum gas fuel provided the complete conversion results in a truck which embodies the features specified for LP or LPS designated trucks. Such conversion equipment shall be approved. The description of the component parts of this conversion system and the recommended method of installation on specific trucks are contained in the “Listed by Report.”

OSHA Safety Inspection – What to Expect

Forklift safety in the United States is regulated by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). While the OSHA’s forklift regulations are focused around forklift safety and forklift training their oversight is not limited to forklift operation. The OSHA also oversees all workplace health and safety regulations. When they perform an inspection it’s rarely limited to forklift operation safety and health. For this reason it’s important to understand what happens during an inspection and to consider how it can apply to forklift operation, training, and safety, but to also consider how can impact your business, your co-workers, and yourself.

OSHA Workplace Inspections

Inspections are not very common. The OSHA cannot inspect every workplace nor does it really want to. They focus their resources on the most hazardous workplaces and use the following priorities to guide their actions:

  • Imminent danger situations – hazards that could cause physical harm or death
  • Fatalities and catastrophes – incidents that involve death or hospitalization of 3 or more individuals
  • Complaints – violation allegations – employees can request to remain anonymous
  • Referrals – violation reports from other agencies, organizations, or individuals
  • Follow-ups – from previous inspections
  • Planned investigations – aimed at high hazard, high risk industries

What to expect

Inspections are usually conducted without advanced notice, however there are circumstances where an inspector will give prior notice. These are typically cases where individuals are in imminent danger and corrective action needs to be taken immediately or when the investigation needs to be performed during off hours. If notice is given, there is an obligation to inform employees of the upcoming inspection.

Before an inspector begins an on site assessment, they will research inspection history and review standards that are most likely to apply to the situation. They will also familiarize themselves with the nature of the business and consider potential hazards.

Inspector credentials

When the inspector (compliance officer) first arrives onsite, they will present their credentials (photograph and serial number). Employers have the right to call the nearest OSHA office and verify their credentials before proceeding.

The opening conference

The compliance officer will explain the purpose of the visit, how the location was selected, and the scope of the inspection. If a complaint was filed by an employee, their name will not appear on any documentation.

The compliance officer will ask the employer to select a representative to accompany them during the inspection. They will also ask an employee representative to join the opening conference. Employees can select an individual to represent them or if a bargaining agreement or safety committee exists, a representative will be selected based on their guidelines.

The walkthrough

The compliance officer, employer and employee representatives will walk through the workplace to inspect the area for safety and health hazards. The route will be selected by the officer who will attempt to minimize work interruptions. If necessary the officer will take photos, videos, instrument readings, examine records, collect air samples, measure noise levels, as well as observer employee contact with hazardous materials and toxins.

An inspection may be expanded to a larger area at the discretion of the officer. If they discover a violation in open view, the officer is more likely to ask to continue the inspection.

The OSHA places a lot of importance on record keeping and the posting of required records. The compliance officer will review records of on the job injury, illness, and death. They will ensure that a copy of totals from the last page of OSHA Form Number 300 are posted in a public place along with poster OSHA 3165 which details employee health and safety information.

The OSHA compliance officer will want to see a copy of the employer’s Hazard Communication Program – employers must have a written communication program that includes information on safety data sheets, labeling of containers, and an employee training program. The Hazard Communication Program should maintain a list of hazardous chemicals in the workplace along with how the employer communicates the hazards associated with each chemical.

During the walkthrough, the officer may point out unsafe conditions to the employer and will convey necessary corrective action. If a correction can be made on the spot, it is to the advantage of the employer to make the adjustment right away – it shows a desire for high safety standards and corrections can be a factor in the officer’s final findings.

The closing conference

At the end of the inspection the OSHA officer will meet with the employer and the employee representative to discuss any unsafe and unhealthy conditions observed. They will also identify all violations for which they may recommend a citation.

More information