Every year, thousands of people are injured by forklifts in the workplace, but you and your company don’t have to be part of these numbers. If you are a forklift operator or your company uses forklifts on a regular basis, there are some things you should keep in mind about OSHA forklift safety. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is the leading authority on workplace safety. OSHA is the source for federal safety laws related to forklifts, forklift safety standards, as well as useful tips on operating forklifts and other powered industrial trucks safely.
Federal OSHA Forklift Laws
According to federal law, no one under the age of 18 can operate a forklift, so all employees who drive or use forklifts must be over 18 years of age. Federal law also states that anyone operating a forklift must have completed training to operate a forklift and be certified as a forklift operator. As part of their training, all forklift operators must also undergo OSHA forklift safety training.
OSHA Forklift Standards
The federal OSHA forklift standards govern both the safety standards of the lift trucks themselves and the way forklifts can be used in the workplace. According to OSHA standards, all industrial lift trucks must have appropriate stickers on the trucks that clearly state the weight capacity, safe operation details, and maintenance dates of the forklift. If the truck has accessories or attachments, these must have the stickers also. All forklifts must be used in the proper environments free of metal dust, flammable gasses or other airborne contaminates. Forklifts must also be of the proper type for handling certain types of loads.
Ten OSHA Forklift Safety Tips
OSHA also offers helpful safety tips for forklift operators and employers. Here are the ten most important OSHA forklift safety guidelines.
1. Forklift operators must stay under the overhead guard at all times so that they are protected from falling objects. This includes hands and feet.
2. Always use the seat belt and other safety equipment in the forklift.
3. Forklift drivers are required to sound the horn to alert people around the forklift when they back up the forklift, when they come to an intersection, when they drive through a doorway, and anywhere the driver’s vision is limited.
4. When working around forklifts, be aware of and stay away from pinch points, or areas on the machine where hands or feet can be pinched by wheels, gears or belts.
5. Never walk underneath the forks if they are lifted, even if there is no load on the forks, and never let anyone else walk under the lifted forks.
6. Operators must always be aware of other employees and objects around the forklift. Before moving, check to make sure you are clear of obstacles or people in all directions.
7. In the event that the lift truck begins to tilt or fall, operators should stay inside the cab of the forklift, brace their feet, and roll with the truck. Never attempt to jump out of the truck if you think it is tipping.
8. Forklifts are designed for one person to drive. Never let another person ride in the forklift; never lift or carry a person on the forks, and only allow authorized personnel to drive a forklift.
9. All operators should treat their forklift like they would an automobile. This means that they should never operate a forklift under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while sick or while tired.
10. If operating a forklift on a city street, always follow all posted traffic signs and signals.
US Dept. of Labor OSHA forklift standards website: http://126.96.36.199/SLTC/poweredindustrialtrucks/