Industrial Powered Machines

A 12 Step Compliance Plan for Forklift Safety

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: September 19th, 2013

The 12 things OSHA requires you to do to ensure forklift safetyFork lift accidents are a leading source of fatal and serious work injuries; failure to ensure proper use of fork lifts is also perennially among the Top 10 most frequent causes of OSHA citations. Here’s a 12-step compliance plan to help you avoid both of these things.


Step 1: Ensure Forklifts Meet Design Standards

All new powered industrial trucks you acquire and use must meet the design and construction requirements for powered industrial trucks in American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II, ANSI B56.1-1969. You’re not allowed to make modifications and additions that affect the forklift’s capacity and safe operation without the manufacturer’s prior written approval. All forklifts must have legible nameplates and markings.

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Step 2: Ensure Forklifts Are Used Only in Locations Allowed for Designation

The Standard establishes 11 designations for industrial trucks depending on how they’re powered, e.g., diesel, electrical or gas.  The standard limits which designation of forklift can be used in which location depending on the atmospheric conditions in the location are hazardous. For example, diesel designated forklifts can’t be used in work areas that contain significant concentrations of flammable or combustible gases.

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Step 3: Ensure Forklifts Have Right Safety Guards

Forklifts must be equipped with a vertical load backrest extension manufactured in accordance with ANSI B56.1-1969 if the type of load presents a hazard. High Lift Rider trucks must also be fitted with an overhead guard manufactured in accordance with the ANSI standard where operating conditions permit.

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Step 4: Ensure Forklift Fuel Is Safely Handled & Stored

Your methods of handling and storing liquid fuels for your forklift such as gasoline and diesel fuel must meet NFPA Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code (NFPA No. 30-1969). Storage and handling of liquefied petroleum gas fuel must meet NFPA Storage and Handling of Liquefied Petroleum Gases (NFPA No. 58-1969).

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Step 5: Ensure Safe Methods Used to Change & Store Forklift Batteries

The Standard sets out detailed rules to ensure safe changing, charging and storage of  batteries used to power forklifts, including the requirement that you ban smoking in battery charging areas and keep tools and other metal objects away from the top of uncovered batteries.

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Step 6: Ensure Forklift Operating Areas Are Well Lit  

Operating areas must be properly illuminated and auxiliary directional lighting must be provided on the forklift where general lighting is less than 2 lumens per square foot.

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Step 7: Keep Forklift Noxious Gas & Fume Emissions below Required Levels

Concentration levels of carbon monoxide gas and other toxic substances generated by powered industrial truck operations may not exceed the levels specified by OSHA in Table Z-1 of the Standard, Section 1910.1000.

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Step 8: Ensure Forklift Dockboards Meet Safety Standards

Dockboards (or bridge plates that forklifts ride over to get to higher or lower surfaces) must be strong enough to carry the expected load. Portable dockboards must be anchored or have devices that prevent slipping and have handholds or other effective means to permit safe handling. Powered dockboards must be designed and constructed in accordance with Commercial Standard CS202-56 (1961) “Industrial Lifts and Hinged Loading Ramps” published by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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Step 9: Ensure Only Competent Persons Operate Forklifts

Forklift operators may be operated only by those competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by successfully completing the training and evaluation required by the Standard.

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Step 10: Ensure Forklifts Are Operated Safely

The Standard sets out detailed requirements to ensure safe use of forklifts, including how they’re parked, mounted and dismounted. The Standard also includes a separate section on “traveling” establishing traffic rules, e.g., that forklifts keep at least 3 truck lengths from the vehicle ahead, dealing with how forklifts should be driven once they get into motion.

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Step 11: Ensure Forklifts Are Safely Loaded

Tilting and tipping of loads is a leading cause of forklift accidents. The Standard sets out detailed loading and unloading requirements to ensure that loads are stable and prevent such accidents.

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Step 12: Ensure Forklifts Are Properly Maintained & Inspected

Forklifts must be inspected at least daily and removed from service if any dangerous defect is found. The Standard explains when and how inspections should be conducted and repairs effected.

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