Proper training can help prevent forklift injuries and fatalities

By: Mark Stromme

Publication: Construction Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 09/17/2019

ANSI lift truck industry standard revised

Powered industrial trucks (PIT) safety has seen a renewed focus recently with the observance of National Forklift Safety Day, a revised ANSI lift truck industry standard, and a regulatory agenda item to revise the OSHA standard. The increased focus is with good reason: PITs continue to be in heavy use throughout both general industry and construction, and continue to be a source of severe injury to workers.

The bad news

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, there are nearly 543,000 forklift and similar PIT operators in the current workforce. From 2011 to 2015 there were an average of 75 PIT-related fatalities per year, and over 54,000 injuries that involved cases with days away from work.

Further, from January 1, 2015, through February 28, 2017, employers made over 800 serious injury reports to Federal OSHA about cases where a forklift or other PIT was involved in a worker amputation, hospitalization, loss of an eye, or fatality incident.

That’s why training PIT operators is so important.

The good news

The OSHA PIT training standard is found at 1910.178(l). There is also the construction standard’s PIT training requirement at 1926.602(d). However, at .602(d) the rule points you to the general industry regulations at 1910.178(l). OSHA does this because the basic initial training on PITs is universal across most industries.

The training requirements broken down

Safe operation — You must ensure that each operator:

  • Is competent to safely operate the particular PIT he/she will use, and
  • Has successfully completed the training required by the rule.

Training program implementation — Your trainer must have the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators, and evaluate their competence.

Trainees can operate a forklift only:

  • Under the direct supervision of a knowledgeable trainer/evaluator, and
  • When it does not endanger the trainee or others.

Ensure your training consists of formal instruction (lecture, discussion, videos), practical training (demonstrations and practical exercises), and jobsite performance evaluations.

Training program content — Train operators initially in all topics listed in 1910.178(l)(3), unless employers can demonstrate that a topic is not applicable to the safe operation of the truck at the employee’s specific worksite.

Topics are broken down into three broad categories: (1) truck-related, (2) worksite-related, and (3) the forklift rule requirements.

Refresher training and evaluation — Refresher training and evaluation must be done to ensure operators have the knowledge and skills needed to operate the forklift safely. Refresher training is required when:

  • Unsafe operation is observed,
  • An accident or near-miss has occurred,
  • An evaluation reveals unsafe operation,
  • The operator will operate a different type of truck, and/or
  • Workplace conditions change that could affect safe operation.

An evaluation of each PIT operator must be conducted at least once every three years.

Avoidance of duplicative training — If an operator has previously trained in a required topic, the training is appropriate to the PIT and working conditions encountered, and the operator has been evaluated and found competent to operate the truck safely, that training does not have to be duplicated.

Certification — Employers must certify that a PIT operator has been trained and evaluated as required by the regulation.

Key to remember: Failing to properly train PIT operators can lead to accidents, property damage, and injuries. Follow the manufacturer’s training recommendations and all of OSHA’s required training.

About the author
Mark Stromme - EH&S Editor

With a background in monitoring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, he currently specializes in the OSHA 1926 construction and 1910 general industry regulations.

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