OSHA Forklift Regulations You Need to Know

Business owners spend a significant amount of money on equipment needed for operations. If you purchased a forklift, you want to ensure it remains in excellent working condition and that everyone using it is safe. To ensure maximum safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration created standards for the operation and inspection of forklifts and other industrial machinery. Use this guide to ensure you comply with OSHA forklift regulations and document your efforts for company records.

Basic OSHA Forklift Regulations

OSHA regulations cover every aspect of operating the equipment and maintaining safe conditions within the plant. Some basics of forklift regulations include understanding the following:

  • Operating around and on loading docks, in narrow aisles, around hazardous areas, and on elevators, ramps and grades
  • Properly handling loads 
  • Protecting workers and pedestrians from injuries
  • Understanding the parts of a forklift and how to use each one
  • Proper usage of power sources

All of these are critical elements you must include in your training practices. OSHA requires all forklift drivers to have adequate training and proper certification before they get behind the wheel. One of the most important elements of the job is having a thorough understanding of the load weight limitations for the specific type of forklift used. If your operation requires multiple types of forklifts, you will need to ensure the proper training standards for each type.

OSHA Forklift Regulations for Inspections and Pre-Operation

Pre-operation inspections and maintenance are key components of OSHA standards. To meet the requirements of OSHA regulations, you can start with visual and operational inspections.

Visual Inspection

A visual inspection should start with the engine turned off. This is the first thing you do before any shift. Start by examining the machine for any visible issues. Then, check the oil and fluid levels before scanning for potential cracks or leaks. Most forklifts use a hydraulic system that operates with fluids running through a series of small cords that you should check daily for potential issues.

Examine the chain to ensure it still has adequate tension, and test it using anything other than your hands. Sticking your hands in the forklift mast to test the chain tension is highly dangerous, even if the machine is not operational. Check the tire pressure and look for signs of cracks or punctures. Finally, ensure all the safety decals are still visible, the operator compartment is clear of debris, and the user manual is on board before moving to the operating inspection.

Operation Inspection

First, turn on the engine and then evaluate all the systems, including the brakes, steering, and accelerator linkage. Give the forklift a test drive if you have the necessary training and test the controls to ensure the mast operates as intended. If you notice anything unusual, such as a strange noise or difficulty managing the controls, label the machine out of order until you have it thoroughly screened for issues.

Sometimes noises or strange vibrations are indicative of improper use of the equipment. OSHA takes safety violations seriously. If someone on your team does not follow safety guidelines, consider pausing operations to reiterate training for the entire team. If nothing appears wrong with the forklift, you can carry on with regular usage.

Example of a Forklift Inspection Checklist

As an owner or supervisor, you should have a checklist that covers all the elements of visual and operational inspection. Some specific elements to include in addition to those mentioned above are:

  • Ensure the operator's seat backrest extends properly
  • Examine the forks' condition, paying special attention to the clip pin and heel
  • Check the finger guards to ensure they function properly
  • Test the seatbelt, horn, and all other functional safety features

If you have an electric forklift, you need to check the battery, battery restraints, and hood latch. Make sure there are no exposed wires that could cause a fire. If you have a forklift with an internal combustion pneumatic cushion, you also need to check the air filters and hood latch. Read the user manual for your specific forklift thoroughly because every piece of equipment is different and manufacturers often include instructions for safety inspections.

Most Recent OSHA Forklift Regulations

OSHA's forklift regulations are virtually the same as they were for the last two decades. The most recent changes took effect in 1999. They include an acknowledgment that OSHA does not formally certify any training program or offer any accreditation. Instead, employers are responsible for creating training initiatives that meet OSHA regulations.

Additionally, employers can designate their own trainers based on proven qualifications without OSHA interference. Finally, OSHA requires that you evaluate any forklift operator before allowing them to operate an industrial truck. Essentially, employers are responsible for understanding the regulations and standards OSHA sets for forklifts and industrial trucks, but they have discretion when it comes to creating training programs for employees.

How To Remain in Compliance With OSHA Forklift Regulations

If you want to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations in your facility, you need to formulate a plan. Some simple steps to include in your plan are:

  • Thoroughly review and understand OSHA's published regulations, including any state-specific addendums.
  • Choose a forklift type that is appropriate for the work and the area. For example, a confined space needs a smaller, battery-operated forklift.
  • Choose the forklift trainer and ensure they have the knowledge, experience, and training to operate the machinery.
  • Schedule forklift training formal and practical instruction, and revisit training at least once or twice per year.

Finally, conduct your daily visual and operational inspections or designate someone to conduct them.

Prepare Your Facility for OSHA Forklift Regulations

As the owner or manager of your facility, you have the responsibility of learning and implementing OSHA forklift regulations. Your best tool for ensuring the safety and maintenance of your machinery is to create a thorough training program that you document and revisit regularly. You are responsible for making sure your employees are aware of the safety standards created to keep them out of harm's way. Find top-quality new and used forklifts near you with Industrial Forklift Truck today.

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