Enforcement and Inspection

What Can Small Businesses Do About Forklifts? Maintenance and Operation Compliance Tips for Employers

Every October, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year. Violations of the standard for powered industrial trucks (i.e., forklifts) are consistently on the list. Today we offer some tips for small businesses on a limited budget to comply with forklift requirements.

Forklift maintenance and operation

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Each year, several thousand injuries related to forklifts occur in U.S. workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks or fall between the dock and an unsecured trailer, pedestrians are struck by a lift truck, or when workers fall while standing on forks while traveling or elevated.

OSHA has extensive regulations for forklift design and maintenance, operations, and training that all employers that use these vehicles must comply with. There are also additional requirements that depend on the classification of a forklift and its use.

This article will focus on general compliance tips for forklift design, maintenance, and operations. Tomorrow we will look at training requirements and some best practices for forklift operators.

According to OSHA, tipovers are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts, representing about 25% of all forklift-related deaths. Common forklift problems that lead to worker injuries include three that are directly related to employer compliance and two that are related to driver responsibilities. Employer compliance issues include:

  • Failure to provide or inadequate operator training;
  • Failure to provide or ensure use of seat belts; and
  • Defective equipment that is not taken out of service.

Common problems that relate to worker responsibilities include:

  • Failure to conduct regular inspections before operation; and
  • Driving in an unsafe manner.

Compliance Tips for Forklift Design and Maintenance

All new forklifts must meet the design and construction requirements established in the American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B56.1-1969, which OSHA has incorporated by reference in 29 CFR 1910.6. There is an exception for vehicles intended primarily for earthmoving or over-the-road hauling.

General compliance tips for equipment design and maintenance include:

  • Do not make modifications or add attachments to forklifts without the prior approval of the manufacturer.
  • Make sure that nameplates and markings are maintained in legible condition.
  • Provide directional lighting on each industrial truck that operates in an area with less than 2 foot-candles (lumens) per square foot of general lighting.
  • Make sure each forklift has a warning horn, whistle, gong, or other device that can be clearly heard above normal noise in the areas where it is operated.
  • Make sure the brakes on each forklift are capable of bringing the vehicle to a complete and safe stop when fully loaded.
  • Make sure the parking brake of the forklift prevents the vehicle from moving when unattended.
  • Make sure that motorized hand and hand/rider trucks are designed so that the brakes are applied and power to the drive motor shuts off when the operator releases his or her grip on the device that controls the truck’s travel.
  • Don’t allow anyone to operate a vehicle that requires maintenance or is in any way unsafe.
  • Remove from service any forklift not in safe operating condition.
  • Make sure all repairs are made by authorized personnel. Do not permit workers to attempt to fix it themselves unless they are trained and authorized to do so.
  • Perform preventive maintenance according to manufacturer’s scheduled recommendations.
  • Keep forklifts in clean condition, free of lint, excess oil, and grease.

Compliance Tips for Forklift Operations

General compliance tips for forklift operations include:

  • Post and enforce the required lift truck operating rules.
  • Ensure that forklifts that operate where flammable gases, vapors, combustible dust, or ignitable fibers may be present are approved for such locations.
  • Ensure that forklifts with internal combustion engines that are operated in buildings or enclosed areas are carefully checked so that they do not cause harmful concentrations of dangerous gases or fumes.
  • Maintain safe distances from the edges of elevated ramps and platforms.
  • Prohibit workers from standing or passing under elevated portions of trucks, whether loaded or empty.
  • Prohibit unauthorized employees from riding on forklifts.
  • Prohibit operators from driving up to anyone standing in front of a fixed object.
  • Make sure operators keep arms and legs inside the running lines of the forklift.
  • Make sure loads are handled only within the rated capacity of the truck.
  • Ensure that forklifts are inspected at least daily before being placed in service. Forklifts used on a round-the-clock basis must be examined after each shift.
  • The operator should conduct a prestart visual check with the key off and then perform an operational check with the engine running.
  • Remove forklifts in need of repair from service immediately.
  • If the forklift has seat belts or other restraining devices (a requirement for forklifts manufactured after 1992), make sure that the operators are using them.

Takeaway for EHS Managers

Violations of forklift standards are consistently on the top 10 list of frequently cited safety and health violations. Determining the best way to protect workers from injury largely depends on the type of truck operated and the worksite where it is being used. You must ensure that each forklift operator is competent to operate a forklift safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation. Small businesses that use forklifts should consider these general design and maintenance and operation compliance points for operating forklifts.

Check tomorrow’s Advisor for forklift training tips.