Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts Part 2


Forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks, are used in numerous work settings, primarily to move materials. Each year in the United States, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents [BLS 1997, 1998].
Forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts; they represent about 25% of all forklift-related deaths

Fatality Data

The following paragraphs summarize information about fatalities involving forklifts. The information is from databases that identify work-related fatalities in the United States.

National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System

In the United States, 1,021 workers died from traumatic injuries suffered in forklift-related incidents from 1980 to 1994. The NTOF Surveillance System uses death certificates to identify work-related deaths. These fatalities resulted from the following types of incidents:
Type of Incident% total victims
Forklift overturns22
Worker on foot struck by forklift20
Victim crushed by forklift16
Fall from forklift9

Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics CFOI identified 94 fatal injuries associated with forklifts in 1995 [BLS 1997].

Current Standards

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA has developed standards for powered industrial trucks (such as low- and high-lift trucks and forklift trucks) [29 CFR* 1910.178] and for forklifts used in the construction industry [29 CFR 1926.600; 1926.602].

*Code of Federal Regulations. See CFR in references.


OSHA has promulgated the Final Rule for Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training [29 CFR 1910.178(l)], which became effective March 1, 1999. The standard requires operator training and licensing as well as periodic evaluations of operator performance. The standard also addresses specific training requirements for truck operation, loading, seat belts, overhead protective structures, alarms, and maintenance of industrial trucks. Refresher training is required if the operator is observed operating the truck in an unsafe manner, is involved in an accident or near miss, or is assigned a different type of truck.

Forklift Maintenance

OSHA requires that industrial trucks be examined before being placed in service. They shall not be placed in service if the examination shows any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle. Such examination shall be made at least daily. When industrial trucks are used around the clock, they shall be examined after each shift. When defects are found, they shall be immediately reported and corrected [29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7)].

Forklift Operation

OSHA requirements for forklift operation are as follows:
  • On all grades, the load and load engaging means shall be tilted back, if applicable, and raised only as far as needed to clear the road surface. The forks shall not be raised or lowered while the forklift is moving [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(7)(iii)].
  • Under all travel conditions, the truck shall be operated at a speed that will permit it to be brought safely to a stop [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(8)].
  • The operator shall slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(4)].
  • The operator is required to look toward and keep a clear view of the travel path [29 CFR 1910.178(n)(6)].
  • Unauthorized personnel shall not be permitted to ride on powered industrial trucks. A safe place to ride shall be provided where the riding of trucks is authorized [29 CFR 1910.178 (m)(3)].
  • Forklift trucks shall not be driven up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object [29 1910.178 (m)(1)].

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Youth Employment

The FLSA [29 USC 201 et seq.] (the primary law governing the employment of youth under age 18) includes work declared hazardous for youth by the Secretary of Labor. Hazardous Order No. 7, Power-Driven Hoisting Apparatus Occupations, prohibits workers under age 18 from using forklifts and similar equipment in nonagricultural industries [29 CFR 570.58]. In agricultural industries, minors under age 16 are prohibited from using forklifts [29 CFR 570.71 (a)(3)(ii)].

United States Code.
Not all working minors are covered by the FLSA. The regulations in agriculture do not apply to minors working on their parents' farms. Also exempted are youths aged 14 and 15 who are working under carefully regulated conditions in a bona fide vocational agriculture program.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

ASME/ANSI B56.1-1993 requires the following [ASME 1993].

Maintenance and Safety Equipment

  • Brakes, steering mechanisms, control mechanisms, warning devices, lights, governors, lift overload devices, guard and safety devices, lift and tilt mechanisms, articulating axle stops, and frame members shall be carefully and regularly inspected and maintained in a safe condition (ASME/ANSI B56.1-1993m 6.2.7) [ASME 1993].
  • When work is being performed from an elevated platform, a restraining means such as rails, chains, etc., shall be in place, or a body belt with lanyard or deceleration device shall be worn by the person(s) on the platform (ASME/ANSI B56.1, §4.17.1[b]) [ASME 1993].


  • An operator should avoid turning, if possible, and should use extreme caution on grades, ramps, or inclines. Normally the operator should travel straight up and down (ASME/ANSI B56.1, §5.3.8[d]) [ASME 1993].
  • The operator of a sit-down type forklift should stay with the truck if lateral or longitudinal tip over occurs. The operator should hold on firmly and lean away from the point of impact (ASME/ANSI B56.1, §5.3.18[d]) [ASME 1993].
In addition to the above regulations, employers and workers should follow operator's manuals, which are supplied by all equipment manufacturers and describe the safe operation and maintenance of forklifts.

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