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Safely Operating Powered Industrial Trucks

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | November 18, 2013 | Comments Off on Safely Operating Powered Industrial Trucks

According to the Washington State Department of Labor Industries’ training module titled Safe Operation of Forklifts, an estimated number of 35,000 severe and 62,000 non-severe injuries are reported in the United States yearly. According to the same module, OSHA reports that around 11 percent of forklifts are linked to accidents annually.

The Washington State Department of Labor Industries also stated in the same module that forklift accidents occur because of the following:

–       Workers weren’t trained on properly operating the different types of forklifts

–       Workers do not know how to safely operate the forklifts

–       Workers proceed in operating forklifts that are defective or have missing parts

All the above reasons point to the same thing: lack of forklift training contributes significantly to why forklift-related accidents happen. This only goes to show that providing the appropriate training and retraining to workers is crucial in ensuring the prevention of workplace accidents and worse, fatalities.

29 CFR 1910.178 is the OSHA standard governing the use of powered industrial trucks or forklifts in Construction. Based on the general requirements of the standard, all powered industrial trucks used at the site shall satisfy ANSI Construction requirements as detailed in the ANSI B56.1-1969. The “approved” powered industrial truck should have a label to serve as proof that it has passed ANSI lab testing.

Some standards also apply to operating powered industrial trucks like those pertaining to working with hazardous materials, vehicle maintenance and loading and unloading.

Providing Employee Training

Employers are responsible for ensuring that operators are equipped to safely operate the different types of powered industrial trucks in pursuance of the provision 1910.178(I)(i). This means employers should require workers to undergo training or train workers themselves, evaluate workers’ competency in operating trucks at the Construction site, and assign them only to work on trucks that they are trained to operate. Additional training should be provided if the worker is assigned to operate another type of truck.

If, by any chance, the worker isn’t directly employed by the employer (the host employer) but operate trucks at the employer’s work premises, then the employer is still obligated to ensure that the workers have obtained proper training. This is a given, in accordance with employers’ responsibility under the OSHA act to provide a safe and healthful workplace to their employees. It doesn’t mean however that the employer should provide training to such workers. You can learn more about this by reading OSHA’s frequently asked questions. 29 CFR 1910.178 also covers training specifications for forklift operators.

Do’s and Don’ts When Operating Forklifts

Listed below are the do’s and don’ts for operating forklifts based on OSHA standards:

–       The atmosphere has been tested to contain hazardous levels of metal dust, carbon, coal or coke dust;

–       The atmosphere or area has been identified as a hazardous or nonhazardous;

–       The forklift truck should release carbon monoxide gas within the limits set by 1910.1000;

–       Enclosures should be attached to circuit breakers, controllers, fuses, switches in places where the atmosphere has been tested positive for magnesium and aluminum dust;

–       The forklift should be deenergized with brakes set in proper position before changing employees should change its batteries;

–       Additional lighting should be provided on the truck if the truck’s general lighting is insufficient

–       The forklift should be inspected before and after use for any damages

According to the National Safety Council’s Alliance, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that being struck by is the top injury caused by forklifts in 2008. Pedestrians are also at risk from forklift operations. In a fact sheet the Council released under its Alliance OSHA Cooperative Program, employers should make sure that equipment and pedestrian ways and walkways should be identified and properly installed with signs/directions. Rules prohibiting cellphone use while driving forklifts should also be established. Other recommendations include:

–       Establishing a slow-down zone for blind locations and docking areas with weak or insufficient lighting

–       Keeping aisles clear

–       Operators should warn pedestrians using warning devices provided by the employer when they’re approaching or if their view is obstructed

–       Operators should seek the assistance of a spotter when maneuvering through or away from blind spots or if their view is obstructed.

Forklift accidents can be successfully minimized and avoided if both employers and employees work together in observing best practices. OSHA’s Outreach 10 and OSHA 30 training covers everything you need to know about operating forklifts. Visit our dedicated pages on OSHA 10 and 30 training for further information.

Links to further reading:

–       Forklift Safety Guide from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

–       The Copy of the OSHA Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks

–      OHIO Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Safe Forklift Operation Guide

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