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OSHA Compliance and General Safety for Lift Trucks: An Overview

When it comes to lift truck maintenance, operation, and repair, safety is key. Workers have been seriously injured and even killed by the failure to properly operate and maintain industrial equipment. Workplace accidents can be expensive, with long-lasting ramifications. Here are just some of the general safety and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance procedures that workplaces must implement for lift trucks and related vehicles, and why these procedures are important.

 

Lift truck maintenance must include pre-shift visual inspections.

OSHA requires that all lift trucks be visually inspected before every shift. This means that if a workplace has three shifts in place, this visual inspection must take place three times a day.

This visual inspection should include inspection of the critical elements of the lift truck: the tires, fluid levels, battery, forks, and seatbelt. Any obvious damage, wear and tear or other problem should result in immediate repair of the lift truck before it is used in the workplace.   

This visual inspection is critical to ensure that no small problems that could result in major accidents go unnoticed. For example, low brake fluid could result in a crash if the brakes fail to stop the forklift in time. Worn tires could result in a potentially fatal accident if the tires break and the operator loses control. By promptly addressing any issues as they arise, inspections ensure that the equipment remains in top working order and that, as a result, it can be operated as safely and successfully as possible at all times.

 

Lift truck general safety must include an inspection of the workplace.

OSHA regulations, as well as general safety guidelines, require that the operator of the forklift conduct a visual inspection of the workplace before every shift.

This inspection should include awareness of any overhead obstacles (low beams, lighting, etc.) and any ground conditions that could affect the safe operation of the equipment (wet spots, dips or hills, etc.). In addition, the operator must observe all posted signs and areas where special care is required, such as loading docks and ramps. Operators must also familiarize themselves with the other individuals working in the area and where they are located.

This inspection allows the operator of the lift truck to avoid any hazards that could lead to accidents during his or her shift. For example, noting a slippery spot on the floor, and either avoiding it or drying it up before beginning a shift, can mean avoiding an accident caused by a sliding machine. Similarly, awareness of the location of other people in the warehouse or on the construction site can allow operators to avoid running into individuals and causing serious injuries.

 

Lift truck maintenance is required.

OSHA has specific requirements in place regarding lift truck maintenance and repair. For example, you must adhere to the manufacturer's maintenance schedule for every piece of equipment. This schedule, which should include daily, monthly and less frequent tasks, is intended to prevent major problems by identifying and addressing smaller problems early.

In addition, OSHA has requirements such as removing forklifts from service if fork tines become too thin, tires are missing pieces of rubber or other specific problems are identified during inspections. Lift trucks must also be immediately removed from service for any issues requiring repair.

Lift truck maintenance may seem expensive and, at times, unnecessary. However, the reality is that by addressing issues before they become problems (i.e. replacing brake pads regularly or cleaning the machine consistently) operators can avoid major problems that occur from major failures within the machine (i.e. a fork tine breaking while carrying a load, or a fire starting from lint buildup in the machine). This can mean reduced expenses and improved long term safety.

 

Operators must be properly trained to operate a lift truck.

While it may be tempting if short on staff or funds to allow employees to operate lift trucks without training and licensing, doing so is not only illegal but exceedingly dangerous. All operators should possess thorough training on the use of the machine, training on general safety and OSHA requirements, and a license for operation of the machinery.

Failure to obtain the right training can lead to serious workplace incidents. For example, an employee who does not know how to properly use the equipment may be unfamiliar with how fast to take a corner, and tip the machine over. He or she may not be aware of how to properly distribute the load on the fork to avoid imbalance, or may not know how to work quickly enough to avoid an accident in the event of an emergency. Proper training is a critical step in maintaining lift truck safety within the workplace.

Darr offers comprehensive lift truck maintenance and repair services and high quality parts to help keep equipment in top working order at all times. In addition, for businesses concerned about abiding by general safety and OSHA regulations, Darr provides comprehensive operator and safety training.

This program is intended to train operators in the safe use of this equipment, as well as train operators and businesses on the proper servicing and lift truck maintenance steps to take. Darr can also “train the trainers,” who can then train and certify operators. By gaining familiarity with industry standards, OSHA regulations, and general safety guidelines for the machinery, employees will be set up for a safer and more successful use of this equipment over the long term.