When a Forklift Is Not a Forklift

Posted on 6/7/2016 by James Griffin

Forklifts—a common sight (and sound) in modern warehouses and other workplaces—come in all shapes and sizes. All forklifts must be selected properly and used safely to protect workers from unique hazards. OSHA’s “forklift” standard—the Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) Standard at 29 CFR 1910.178—actually covers more than just the standard forklift the general public is familiar with. Let's take a look at some of the additional work machines covered under OSHA’s rules for PITs.

Each year, more than 7,000 nonfatal occupational injuries that require days away from work are attributed to powered industrial trucks like forklifts and other machines we'll cover below.

To protect workers from the hazards of powered industrial trucks, OSHA has safety standards for their safe operation and maintenance.

Types of Powered Industrial Trucks Covered Under OSHA's Forklift Standard

First off, the OSHA standard applies to all Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs), not just forklifts. A PIT is a "mobile, power propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack, or tier material. [ANSI/ASME B56.1 63 FR 66241]

OSHA's definition of "powered industrial-truck" includes vehicles:
  • Controlled by a riding operator, or
  • Remotely controlled, or
  • Controlled by an operator standing alongside.
In addition to the eponymous "forklift," the definition and standard apply also to:

Powered pallet jacks

Powered pallet jack covered under OSHA forklift standard

Shopping cart caddies

Shopping cart mover covered under OSHA forklift standard

Walk-behind forklifts

Walk behind forklift covered under OSHA forklift standard

Rough-terrain forklifts

Rough terrain forklift covered under OSHA forklift standard

Order pickers

Order picker covered under OSHA forklift standard

and other similar machinery.

OSHA's Powered Industrial Truck Standard [29 CFR 1910.178]

Now that we've seen some of the different machinery covered under OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.178 PIT Standard, let's take a look at the specific safety requirements.

The 29 CFR 1910.178 Standard requires employers to:
  • Pick the right kind of PIT for the work environment,
  • Properly maintain the PIT,
  • Institute appropriate traffic control measures, and
  • Train employees on the proper use of the PIT.
The Standard requires employees who operate/maintain PITs to:

  • Undergo training on a regular basis,
  • Follow the manufacturers/industry standard maintenance schedule, and
  • Follow site-specific traffic control measures.
Since implementing the employee training requirements in 1998, OSHA has issued just two official interpretations on PITs, one in 1999 and one in 2004.

To help employers protect workers who operate powered industrial trucks, OSHA maintains an active Safety & Health Topics Page on its website.

Machines That Are Not PITs

Vehicles that are used for earth moving, moving people, or over-the-road hauling are explicitly NOT PITs.

Related OSHA Safety Standards

Modern workplaces, especially warehousing, construction, and big box retail, can have lots of different equipment for moving people and things around.

OSHA has workplace safety standards for some of them:
  • Vehicle-mounted Elevating and Rotating Work Platforms, (i.e., cherry-pickers): 29 CFR 1910.67
  • Mobile Work Platforms: 29 CFR 1910.29
  • Scissor Lifts: Scissor lifts are primarily regulated under OSHA's construction safety standards at 29 CFR 1926.
These standards are meant to protect workers from falls and from getting struck by or stuck in machinery.

Whenever a particular standard doesn't apply, there's always the General Duty Clause.

Convenient, 24/7 OSHA Safety Training at

Your employees are everything. Keep them safe with reliable, effective online OSHA safety training at With courses on crucial safety topics like GHS HazCom, forklift safety, and a new 8-hour HAZWOPER Refresher, online OSHA training at will help your employees build the knowledge and skills to identify and mitigate workplace hazards and keep their co-workers safe. Sign up now to defend your business against injuries, lost time, and future liability.

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