A forklift is a type of “powered industrial truck” covered by OSHA standards. Like other powered industrial trucks (PIT), its purpose is to move, carry, push, pull, and lift a material load then stack it or place it in a storage rack (tier) or jobsite location. Forklifts come in many sizes and capacities. They can be powered by batteries, propane, gasoline, or diesel fuel. Some are designed to be used in a hazardous location or atmosphere where an ordinary forklift might cause a fire or explosion. Powered industrial trucks are classified into seven types based on their characteristics.
Rough terrain forklifts are a Class 7 PIT.The forklift has large pneumatic tires. It has a boom which raises and extends. It has outriggers at the front to stabilize the forklift on soft or uneven ground. This type of PIT is common on construction sites, but still shares all the regulations as the other six classes of forklifts.
A forklift operator must undergo specific training. The training has three parts:
- formal instruction such as a lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, videotape and or written material (can be taken anywhere);
- practical training which includes hands-on demonstrations by the trainer and exercises by the trainee (on the model of forklift the worker will use); and
- an evaluation of the effectiveness of the training by observing the operator’s performance while doing actual work using the forklift. This evaluation must be repeated at least once every three years (must be at workplace).
Refresher training must be given if the operator has been involved in an accident, near miss or unsafe operations. Also, if an operator is assigned to a new type of forklift or if workplace conditions change that could affect safety, then refresher training is required.
Qualified Trainers – The trainer must have the knowledge, training and experience to train and evaluate forklift operators. The trainee can only operate the forklift when directly supervised by such a person and when this would not endanger anyone.
Documenting Training – If the operator had previous forklift training, the employer must document that the training covered the required topics. The operator must have been evaluated in the current workplace within the last three years.
Training and Evaluation Records – The employer must keep a record that shows that each forklift operator has been trained. The record includes the name of the operator, date of training, date of evaluation and the name of the person(s) giving the training and evaluation.
A trained operator has many responsibilities. First and foremost is assuring the forklift is in good operating condition. An inspection must be performed at the start of the shift. Even if you operate a forklift safely, a defect can cause or contribute to a serious accident. A checklist should be located with the forklift and the inspection documented. If you do an inspection and don’t complete the documentation, it is like it didn’t happen.
Some common things on the checklist are:
- Is the horn working? Sound the horn at intersections and wherever vision is obstructed.
- Are there hydraulic leaks in the mast or elsewhere? These could cause slipping hazards or lead to hydraulic failure.
- Are fuel connections tight and battery terminals covered? Dropping a piece of metal across battery terminals can cause an explosion.
- Are there lint, grease, oil or other material on the forklift that could catch on fire?
- Do sparks or flames come out from the exhaust system?
- Does the engine show signs of overheating?
- Are tires at proper pressure and free of damage? A tire with low pressure or a tire failure can cause a forklift to tip or fall when a load is high.
- Do all controls such as lift, lower, and tilt work smoothly?
- Are there any deformation or cracks in the forks, mast, overhead guard, or backrest?
- Are lights operating if used at night or in dark locations?
- Is steering responsive? A lot of play or hard steering will reduce your control.
- Do brakes stop smoothly and reliably? Sudden stops can cause tipping.
- Does the parking brake hold the forklift on an incline?
- Are seat belts (if equipped) working and accessible?
- Is the load capacity plate readable?
Any defects that would affect safety must be corrected before the forklift is returned to service.