OSHA Wants Your Input on Forklift Rules

OSHA is seeking comment and information about possible deregulatory action involving general industry, construction, and maritime standards for forklifts and other powered industrial trucks. The request for information appeared in the March 11 Federal Register.

Forklift in warehouse

vm / E+ / Getty Images

OSHA seeks to address differences between its regulations and updates to the two industry consensus standards there were the basis of its original standard. The agency also wants to know whether it can maintain or improve worker safety while addressing elements of the regulations that that may be inefficient, outdated, unnecessary, or overly burdensome.

Over Twenty Years Since Last Revision

OSHA promulgated its original general industry standard in June 1971 and last revised its standards December 1, 1998. The agency based its initial regulation on the 1969 editions of two industry consensus standards: American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Safety Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, B56.1, and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) standard for Type Designation, Areas of Use, Maintenance and Operation of Powered Industrial Trucks, NFPA 505.

Both industry standards have been revised several times, most recently in 2018.

The ANSI standard covers both the manufacture and operation of forklifts and other powered industrial trucks. The NFPA standard concerns safeguards for the fire and explosion hazards presented by powered industrial trucks.

OSHA revised its powered industrial truck standards in 1998 to add operator training and evaluation requirements.

When OSHA adopted the original standard, there were 11 designated types of trucks. The NFPA standard has since been updated to include eight others, including:

  • Compressed hydrogen-powered (CGH);
  • Compressed natural gas-powered (CN);
  • Compressed natural gas-powered with additional safeguards to the exhaust, fuel, and electrical systems (CNS);
  • Diesel-powered (DX);
  • Gasoline or compressed natural gas vehicles with minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards (G/CN);
  • Gasoline or liquefied petroleum gas vehicles with minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards (G/LP); and
  • Gasoline or compressed natural gas-powered with additional safeguards to the exhaust, fuel, and electrical systems (GS/CNS).

Injuries and Fatalities

Incidents involving forklifts and other powered industrial trucks do result in fatal injuries and days away from work. Lost-workday injuries ranged from 11,790 cases in 2016 to 11,940 cases in 2015 and averaged 11,857 cases annually, according the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS reported the annual number of fatalities ranged from 218 to 241, with an annual average of 226 fatalities. The majority of fatalities occurred in five industry sectors:

  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (788);
  • Manufacturing (126);
  • Construction (94);
  • Wholesale trade (83); and
  • Transportation and warehousing (78).

Broad-Ranging Information Request

OSHA is seeking comments and data about anticipated benefits, costs, and cost savings related to a broad range of questions.

For example, the agency wants to know whether standards for the construction and maritime industries should be identical or substantially similar to the general industry standard. OSHA also wants data on the ages, capacity, function, lifespans, and specifications of the trucks currently in employers’ fleets.

The agency also wants answers to questions such as:

  • How commonly used are the eight powered industrial truck types identified in NFPA 505-2018 but not in OSHA’s current standard?
  • Is current training limited to truck operations and maintenance, or does it cover a broad occupational safety and health training program that includes training on trucks?
  • What types or materials or tools are used in training (DVDs, online courses, hands-on training, computer simulation or robotics)?
  • Are OSHA’s current training requirements adequate or excessive? If excessive, what requirements are unnecessary or overly burdensome?
  • What are the most common types of workplace incidents and injuries involving powered industrial trucks (rollovers, struck by, falling off docks)?
  • What are the most common causes of hazardous incidents involving powered industrial trucks?
  • Which activities involving powered industrial trucks result in the most incidents (loading, unloading, traveling, backing up)?

Chance to Weigh in on Regulations

The request for information offers employers the opportunity to voice concerns about any inconsistent or overly burdensome requirements of the powered industrial trucks standards. OSHA is especially interested in comments and data from small entities. Comments and data submissions are due to the agency by June 10, 2019.

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