Workplace Accident Prevention Around Powered Industrial Trucks

June 7, 2016


Industrial Safety

Published in NCBVA Bulletin February 2014
Author: Ron Overton

The following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA in fiscal year 2013
(October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013)

  1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  5. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305)
  6. Powered industrial trucks (PITs), general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  7. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  8. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  9. Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303)
  10. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212)

Overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts. They represent about 25 percent of all forklift-related deaths.

Safety in the workplace

What are the hazards associated with operating powered industrial trucks?

There are many types of powered industrial trucks. Each type 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.  This is because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck.

Workplace type and conditions are also factors in hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks. For example, retail establishments often face greater challenges than other worksites in maintaining pedestrian safety.

Beyond that, many workers can also be injured when: (1) lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks; (2) lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; (3) they are struck by a lift truck; or (4) they fall while on elevated pallets and tines.

Work Safe

What can be done to reduce the hazards related to powered industrial trucks?

Determining the best way to protect workers from injury largely depends on the type of truck operated and the worksite where it is being used. Employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1).

OSHA and your local State OSHA require operators to be trained on the basic fundamentals of PIT’s. These operators must be familiar with the operating characteristics of the equipment, evaluated by a competent person who has the knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and to evaluate that competence person prior to their operating the equipment without direct supervision.

Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator’s performance in the workplace.

Training Program Content

Powered industrial truck operators shall receive initial training in the following topics, except in topics which the employer can demonstrate are not applicable to safe operation of the truck in the employer’s workplace.

Industrial Truck related topics:

  1. Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate;
  2. Differences between the truck and the automobile;
  3. Truck controls and instrumentation–where they are located, what they do, and how they work;
  4. Engine or motor operation;
  5. Steering and maneuvering;
  6. Visibility (including restrictions due to loading);
  7. Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations;
  8. Vehicle capacity;
  9. Vehicle stability;
  10. Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform;
  11. Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries;
  12. Operating limitations; and,
  13. Any other operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operator’s manual for the types of vehicle that the employee is being trained to operate.

Workplace Safety topics:

  1. Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated;
  2. Composition of loads to be carried and load stability;
  3. Load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking;
  4. Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated;
  5. Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated;
  6. Hazardous (classified) locations where the vehicle will be operated;
  7. Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle’s stability;
  8. Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust; and,
  9. Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.

Refresher Training and Evaluation

Refresher training, including an evaluation of the effectiveness of that training, shall be conducted, as required by rule, to ensure that the operator has the knowledge and skills needed to operate the powered industrial truck safely.

Refresher training in relevant topics shall be provided to the operator when:

  1. The operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner;
  2. The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident;
  3. The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely;
  4. The operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck; or
  5. A condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safe operation of the truck.

An evaluation of each powered industrial truck operator’s performance shall be conducted at least once every three years.

Be sure your operator training program is sufficient to inform your operators about the hazards at your workplace, and to conduct refresher evaluations as required to avoid costly accidents and potential OSHA citations!

Have questions? Feel free to contact us.