Powered Industrial Trucks

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.

Powered Industrial Trucks

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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. Other example safety and health programs are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions. 

Training and Outreach Services

The presentations on powered industrial trucksmaterials handling for general industry, and struck by/caught between can be used to assist with employee training. Other example presentations are available along with pre-recorded webinars which can be accessed at any time. 

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. 

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).

Safety and Health Topics

More related information can be found on the materials handling and storage, portable fire extinguishers and big four in construction safety and health topics page. 

Consultation Services

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. 

General Industry

Maritime, Marine Terminals


  • 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 Documents


  • Brochures on forklift safety in English and Spanish that can be handed out to employees.

Fact Sheets

Hazard Alerts

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

Inquiries about workplace safety and health requirements can be submitted to Ask OSH through the online form, by email to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov, or by phone at 919-707-7876.