OSHA estimates that “powered industrial trucks,” commonly known as forklifts or lift trucks, account for about 85 fatal workplace accidents every year. About 1 out of every 10 forklifts in operation each year is involved in some form of accident, whether it is tipping, crushing, or striking a pedestrian. Due to the hazards associated with operating forklifts, a focus on workplace safety is critical to prevent accidents, injury, and property damage at facilities where forklifts are used.
Forklift Training Standard
OSHA’s forklift training standard, found at 29 CFR 1910.178(l), states that training must cover operation, movement, loading, and maintenance, as well as workplace-specific information. OSHA’s forklift safety standards were established in 1971 and based on the then-existing American National Standards Institute (ANSI) safety standards (ANSI B56.1-1969). In 1998, after years of consulting with employers and worker organizations, OSHA expanded the training requirement to include more specific directions on what must be covered [63 FR 66270, December 1, 1998].
Forklift employee training must consist of formal instruction (i.e., lecture, written, or computer-based material), practical training (i.e., demonstrations and supervised operation of a forklift), and evaluation (i.e., testing). When an employer trains an employee to operate forklifts and other powered industrial trucks (PIT), they must certify (i.e., sign) a written record that shows the employee has been trained. The certification must include the name of the operator, the date of the training, the date of the evaluation, and the identity of the person(s) performing the training and/or evaluation. Employers must certify that forklift operators are trained before assigning them to operate a PIT.
There is no specified period for providing refresher training to qualified PIT operators. However, the employer must evaluate each trained operator at least once every three years. [29 CFR 1910.178(l)4)(iii)] If the employer determines that the employee is not operating the PIT safely, then refresher training is required.
PIT operators must also receive refresher training whenever they:
Have been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner,
Have been involved in an accident or near-miss incident,
Are assigned to drive a new or different type of PIT, or
Could affect safe operation of the truck because of changed conditions in the workplace.
Safely Operating a Forklift
While much of OSHA’s forklift standard has to do with the design, construction, and maintenance of forklifts and selecting the appropriate design for different workplaces, the bulk of operator training focuses on safely operating the vehicles.
There are many different designs of forklift. Before operating a particular forklift, an employee must become familiar with the controls, instrumentation, cargo capacity, and other operating limits of that make and model of forklift and with any after-market modifications to a particular vehicle. While some elements of forklift training are generic (the lifting triangle, the differences between powered industrial trucks and automobiles), an employee’s training MUST address the specific type(s) and special features of the PITs he or she will operate.
Forklifts are used in many different industries and workplaces. Before operating a forklift in a particular workplace, employees must become familiar with the areas in which they will operate and the loads the forklift will carry. Pedestrian cross-traffic, narrow aisles, ramps, or other sloped surfaces can all affect safe forklift operation. If there are any areas with insufficient ventilation, a gasoline-powered forklift could create a buildup of carbon monoxide or other exhaust fumes and create a hazard.
Avoiding Dangerous Driving
Many dangerous activities are explicitly prohibited by the forklift standard, and many common-sense guidelines are explicitly required, including the following:
Stunt driving and horseplay are prohibited.
The truck may not carry loads that weigh more than its maximum capacity.
Trucks in need of repair must be taken out of service and may not be operated until repaired.
Drivers must slow down when turning, in wet conditions, or on slopes.
Drivers must look in the direction of and keep a clear view of travel.
OSHA commonly lists forklift accidents as one of the top ten workplace health and safety concerns in the US each year. By providing effective forklift safety training, employers can protect forklift 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 provides 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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