Powered industrial trucks, commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, are used in many industries, primarily to move materials. Powered industrial trucks can either be ridden by the operator or controlled by a walking operator. Over-the-road haulage trucks and earth-moving equipment that has been modified to accept forks are not considered powered industrial trucks.
What are the hazards associated with powered industrial trucks?
Each type of powered industrial truck presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. Workplace type and conditions are also factors in hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks. Beyond that, many workers can also be injured when (1) lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks; (2) lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; (3) they are struck by a lift truck; or (4) they fall while on elevated pallets and tines. In addition, the use of a powered industrial truck in a location for which that type of powered industrial truck is not designated for use, for example due to a flammable atmosphere, can result in a fire or explosion.
What can I do to protect myself?
When working in or walking through areas where powered industrial trucks are being used, especially forklifts, be mindful of traffic patterns and do not cross immediately in front of a moving forklift. Do not pass under the raised portion of a forklift, regardless of the presence or absence of a load.
If you are a forklift operator, be sure to fasten your seat belt before moving the equipment. Do not use a forklift for any purpose for which it was not designed. Do not exceed the load limit of any type of powered industrial truck, especially a forklift.
Never leave a forklift unattended with forks raised and engine running. Be sure that forks are fully lowered, controls neutralized and the engine shut off.
What resources are available to assist employers?
Safety and Health Programs
An example forklift inspection program is available for employers to use in their workplace. It should be customized to fit the conditions and equipment used in the workplace.
Training and Outreach Services
The presentations on powered industrial trucks, materials handling for general industry, and struck by/caught between can be used to assist with employee training. In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. This pre-recorded webinar on powered industrial trucks can also be accessed at any time.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).
A-Z Safety and Health Topics
More related information can be found on the materials handling and storage A-Z topics page.
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
Which standards apply?
OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to powered industrial trucks in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
29 CFR 1910.178 - powered industrial trucks
Maritime, Marine Terminals
29 CFR 1917.43 - powered industrial trucks
29 CFR 1926.602 - material handling equipment, paragraph (d) regarding operator training
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
Compliance Directive: CPL 02-01-028, Compliance Assistance for the Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training Standards establishes enforcement policy and provides an explanation of the operator training requirements of the standard to ensure uniform enforcement.
Compliance Directive: CPL 02-01-030, Chocking Tractor Trailers Under the Powered Industrial Truck Standard, establishes policy to ensure proper enforcement of 29 CFR §1910.178(k)(1) and §1910.178(m)(7).
Standards Notice: SN 66 allows the use of a spring-loaded brake system or dock lock in lieu of chocking, as a means that secures trucks or trailers to loading docks.
- Brochures on forklift safety in English and Spanish that can be handed out to employees.
NCDOL Investigates: Forklift Fatality discusses the investigation process when OSH receives notification about a work-related fatality in which a forklift was involved.
Hazard Alert on Forklifts and Material Handling provides information related to the dangers related to the use of forklifts.
Industry Guide 48 - OSHA Construction Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to powered industrial trucks in construction.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to powered industrial trucks in general industry.
Industry Guide 54 - OSHA Marine Terminal Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to powered industrial trucks at marine terminals.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-707-7876.