Do you know everything you need to know about the 10 most frequently cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards? In this series, we’re exploring the most common OSHA violations, one by one. Keep reading to learn about OSHA’s forklift safety requirements.
OSHA Forklift Safety: What It Is
“Powered industrial trucks, commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, are used in many industries, primarily to move materials. They can be used to move, raise, lower, or remove large objects or a number of smaller objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers.
The hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks vary depending on the vehicle type and the workplace where the truck is used.
…The best way to protect employees from injury also depends on the type of truck operated and worksite where it is being used.” (Source)
Forklifts, which OSHA likes to call “powered industrial trucks,” are useful vehicles. Countless businesses rely on forklifts to move large/heavy objects.
However, the things that make forklifts useful also make them dangerous. Accidents happen throughout businesses and industries. Loads can fall and crush people. Forklifts can tip over, injuring drivers and workers nearby. Pedestrians can get hit, which is especially common in workplaces where a lot of people are moving around on foot. These risks vary by industry and kind of forklift being used.
Each type of truck presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident, because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. Workplace conditions also present different hazards. For example, retail establishments often face greater challenges than other worksites in maintaining pedestrian safety.
OSHA’s forklift rules cover issues such as the following:
- the maximum weight a forklift can safely carry at one time
- how a load should be balanced on the forklift
- how materials should be raised and lowered via forklift
- forklift operator training
- safe speeds for driving a forklift
- how to safely use a forklift around pedestrians
- how to use forklifts to safely transport hazardous materials
- how to use forklifts on moving ships, and in and around docks and other loading zones
For OSHA’s full list of standards, click here.
Why OSHA Forklift Violations Happen
There are two primary kinds of forklift-related accidents. The first is when forklifts tip over. Often, this is due to balancing issues—the weight of the load exceeds the weight of the forklift, or the load wasn’t positioned properly. Other times, it happens when forklifts are driven too fast—the forklift turns too quickly or hits an obstacle, and the operator loses control.
The second leading cause of forklift violations is pedestrian accidents. Perhaps a forklift operator doesn’t see a pedestrian (e.g. because the pedestrian is obscured by the load), or a pedestrian isn’t paying attention and walks in front of a forklift. Sometimes, a load falls or a forklift tips over and strikes a bystander. Other times, pedestrians may be injured or killed by a forklift falling off a loading dock or other elevated platform, or when they themselves fall from an elevated pallet or tine (the “arm” of a forklift).
Keep in mind that it’s illegal for anyone under 18 years old to operate a forklift. Additionally, drivers who are of age must undergo extensive training and certification before they can legally operate a forklift. Many accidents involve operators who aren’t allowed, trained, or certified to be behind the wheel.
What You Stand to Lose When Forklift Safety Violations Happen
Direct costs: OSHA penalties can exceed $15,000 per violation—and as much per day for every day the issue hasn’t been fixed by OSHA’s deadline. The fine for a willful or repeated violation can be 10 times as much.
- workers’ compensation claims from workers who have sustained an injury due to forklift misuses
- lost productivity due to injuries caused by accidents
- expenses related to damaged or broken forklifts, or damaged/broken materials that were dropped or struck by a forklift
- legal and compliance fees
- decreased morale
- negative publicity and reputational damage