How to Choose the Right Forklift for Any Work Area

Posted on June 11,2018 by Joel Gregier, CDGP

FORKLIFT.JPGToday is National Forklift Day, an event started by the Industrial Truck Association to raise awareness of the importance of forklift operator training and workplace safety.

If your company uses forklifts, also called Powered Industrial Trucks or PITs, you are subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety rules for general industry at 29 CFR 1910.178. These OSHA regulations cover a range of topics--from training drivers on safe use to design and construction standards for forklifts, labeling rules, fuel storage, and more.

Online now: 10-hour OSHA safety training for general industry managers and employees.  Identify the hazards present in your workplace and ensure employees have the knowledge and insight to protect themselves on the job.

Choosing a Forklift for Your Work Area

One big area of concern is making sure that you are using the right forklift in appropriate locations.
Depending on the dangers associated with the work area (for instance, flammable gases and vapors), certain types of forklifts would not be appropriate due to their ability to create dangerous situations (such as a spark igniting the vapors).

Now, let’s discuss the types of forklifts to give you a general idea of what to avoid.

Types of Forklifts

Forklift_Operator_121383193.jpgForklifts come in four main varieties: gasoline-powered, diesel-powered, liquified petroleum gas-powered, and electric-powered. Each of these types can be broken down further based on what safeguards have been installed on the forklifts. In the 29 CFR forklift regulations, the type and safeguards are indicated by a simple lettering system (e.g., “G” and “GS”).

Read more: When a Forklift is Not a Forklift

The letter codes break down as follows:

Gasoline-powered forklifts

G = has minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards.

GS = is provided with additional safeguards to the exhaust, fuel, and electrical systems. They may be used in some locations where the use of a G unit may not be considered suitable.

Diesel-powered forklifts

D = has minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards.

DS = is provided with additional safeguards to the exhaust, fuel, and electrical systems.

DY = has all the safeguards of the DS units and in addition does not have any electrical equipment, including the ignition, and is equipped with temperature limitation features.

Liquified Petroleum Gas-powered forklifts

LP = has minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards.

LPS = is provided with additional safeguards to the exhaust, fuel, and electrical systems.

Electrical-powered forklifts

E = has minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards.

ES = is provided with additional safeguards to the electrical system to prevent emission of hazardous sparks and limit surface temperatures.

EE = has, in addition to all of the requirements for the E and ES units, the electric motor and all other electrical equipment completely enclosed. In certain locations, the EE unit may be used where the use of an E or ES unit may not be considered suitable.

EX = is different in that the electrical fittings and equipment are so designed, constructed, and assembled that the units may be used in certain atmospheres containing flammable vapors or dusts.
[29 CFR 1910.178(b)]

Avoid Certain Hazardous Atmospheres

Outside_Storage_IBCs_Corrosive_With_Forklift.jpgAs you can see from above, the forklifts that only meet the minimum safety criteria (G, D, LP, E) can only be used in areas that have no hazardous atmospheres. They are not really designed to go into work areas that contain hazardous atmospheres. Examples of these work areas could be piers and wharves inside and outside general storage and general industrial or commercial properties.

The forklifts that have an additional letter added to them (e.g., GS, DY, EX) have a higher level of safeguards and can possibly be used in areas that your standard forklift cannot enter. The “safest” of the forklifts would be the EX type. For instance, it’s the only type of forklift that could be used in atmospheres containing carbon black, coal, or coke dust. [29 CFR 1910.178(c)(2)(ii)(a)]

There are also certain areas that no type of forklift may enter because it would simply be too dangerous. For instance, no forklift is allowed in atmospheres containing hazardous concentrations of acetylene, butadiene, ethylene oxide, hydrogen (or gases or vapors equivalent in hazard to hydrogen, such as manufactured gas), propylene oxide, acetaldehyde, cyclopropane, diethyl ether, ethylene, isoprene, or unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH). [29 CFR 1910.178(c)(2)(i)]

How Do I Know Which Forklift to Use?

To aid employers in determining which forklifts to use in the workplace, detailed requirements can be found at 29 CFR 1910.178(c).
In particular, OSHA has created a table, called “Table N-1—Summary Table on Use of Industrial Trucks in Various Locations,” that summarizes how to choose the right forklift for your work area. 

Celebrate Forklift Safety with Driver Training

Forklift accidents are a mainstay on OSHA’s annual list of the top ten workplace health and safety citations. In 2017, OSHA issued 2,126 citations for violations of its forklift Standard. By providing effective forklift safety training, employers can protect operators and other employees from injury on the job. Employees with proper training are prepared to safely operate and maintain these lifts and avoid accidents.

To help forklift drivers meet OSHA’s formal instruction requirement at 29 CFR 1910.178(I), Lion Technology offers the Forklift Safety Online Course. Available 24/7, this online course teaches the principles for operating forklifts; using safety equipment; loading, balancing, and lifting loads; inspecting and maintaining lifts; parking; and refueling/recharging safely.

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