Powered Industrial Trucks | Materials Handling

This section contains safety requirements relating to fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.
Section 1910.178 does not applyto compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas-operated industrial trucks, nor to farm vehicles and vehicles intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road hauling.

Loading §1910.178(o)(1)

Only stable or safely arranged loads shall be handled. Caution shall be used when handling off-center loads which cannot be centered.
Only loads within the rated capacity of the truck shall be handled.
The long or high (including multiple-tiered) loads which may affect capacity shall be adjusted.
Trucks equipped with attachments shall be operated as partially loaded trucks when not handling a load.
A load engaging means shall be placed under the load as far as possible; the mast shall be carefully tilted backward to stabilize the load.
Extreme care shall be used when tilting the load forward or backward, particularly when high tiering. Tilting forward with load engaging means elevated shall be prohibited except to pick up a load. An elevated load shall not be tilted forward except when the load is in a deposit position over a rack or stack. When stacking or tiering, only enough backward tilt to stabilize the load shall be used.

Operator Training §1910.178(I)

Forklift drivers must be trained on the type of vehicle they will be operating before they are allowed to drive the vehicle independently. The training must consist of instruction (both classroom-type and practical training) in proper vehicle operation, the hazards of operating the vehicle in the workplace, and the requirements of the powered industrial truck standard. See TRAINING chapter for more information.
Refresher training must be done whenever an accident or near-miss occurs, when the operator is driving unsafely, conditions in the workplace change, or if assigned to operate a different type of vehicle.
An evaluation of driver performance must be conducted at least once every three years. Certification of the training and evaluation must be recorded to verify that the driver is competent to perform the duties safely.

Pre-operational inspections

OSHA requires that forklifts be inspected prior to being placed in service and, when used around-the-clock, after each shift. Although OSHA requires that these inspections be conducted, there is no requirement that the inspection be recorded in writing, such as on a daily checklist. However, recording these inspections and maintaining copies of the inspection logs is a good way to document that the required inspections are occurring — both for your company records and for OSHA inspectors.
Set a specific period of time to keep inspection logs and document the length of time in your written safety and health program, forklift program, or company policy, whichever you use (e.g. “We retain daily forklift inspection logs for three months”). This will prove to OSHA that forklift operators perform the daily inspections as required in §1910.178(q)(7).

Alarms and lights

OSHA standards do not require backup alarms, tail/brake lights, or strobe lights on lift trucks. While the forklift standard does not specifically mention head lights on lift trucks, it does address facility lighting by stating that controlled lighting of adequate intensity should be provided in operating areas.

Chocking highway truck wheels

OSHA’s regulations relating to chocking the wheels of highway trucks prior to forklift vehicles driving onto them to load/unload materials are located at §1910.178 (k)(1) and (m)(7). These paragraphs state that before a forklift is driven onto the trailer, the brakes of the vehicle must be set and the rear wheels chocked to prevent the trailer from moving.
However, in most cases, commercial motor vehicles are no longer required to chock trailer wheels when parking at loading docks. In an agreement between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and OSHA, authority over commercial motor vehicle parking issues belongs to the FMCSA. Consequently, OSHA’s wheel chocking requirements no longer apply to any commercial motor vehicle that:
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is great er, or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation, or
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to trans port passengers for compensation, or
  • Is used in transporting hazardous material in an amount requiring placarding under DOT regulations.
The FMCSA’s parking brake standard, 49 CFR 393.41(a), requires that every commercial motor vehicle manufactured since March 1990 be equipped with a parking brake system adequate to hold the vehicle or combination under any condition of loading. Agricultural commodity trailers, converter dolly, heavy hauler, and pulpwood trailers are exempted and must carry and use chocking blocks to prevent movement when parked. OSHA has instructed its regional offices that enforcement personnel are not to cite the forklift standard’s wheel chocking requirements with regard to any commercial motor vehicle. The Agency is currently developing enforcement guidelines for further clarification.

Seatbelt use

OSHA’s Powered Industrial Truck standard does not have a requirement addressing the use of seatbelts. Consequently, until a few years ago, there was no uniformity in how compliance officers enforced seatbelt usage for forklift operators. In October 1996, OSHA corrected this situation by issuing the following enforcement directive stating the parameters of seatbelt enforcement to all regional offices.

Fall protection: Body belts vs. harnesses

Fall protection requirements on forklifts used to lift personnel are not specifically addressed in the current Powered Industrial Truck standard. However, OSHA’s newer regulations which address fall hazards in the construction industry require the use of body harnesses rather than body belts for as a personal fall arrest system because the hazards associated with body belts are greatly reduced through the use of harnesses. Although there are no similar requirements in general industry regulations, OSHA has stated that body harnesses rather than body belts are the appropriate form of fall protection for employees working on elevated order picker platforms without guardrails. A body belt could be used, however, as a restraint device, that is, when used in conjunction with a lanyard short enough that the employee cannot fall from the platform.

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