Forklift Safety

OSHA reports that every year, thousands of forklift truck injuries and property damage accidents occur in the U.S. workplace. Many of the injuries are due to lift truck rollovers, trucks inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts falling between docks and an unsecured trailer, pedestrians struck by a lift truck, and employees falling from elevated pallets or forks. Many incidents also involve property damage. All of these injuries and property damage events are costly and preventable.

It’s not possible to discuss all the incidents summarized above or go into detail about the failures attributed to the events, but simply bringing them to your attention may prompt you to take a critical look at your overall lift truck program and make some adjustments.

OSHA identified training as one of the key factors responsible for these accidents. If you’re experiencing any forklift truck injuries or property damage accidents, you need to ask yourself: Is my forklift truck training sufficient and adequate, and does it meet the OSHA requirements? Let’s take a look at the requirements.

Training & Evaluation
1910.178(l) – Employees who operate a forklift must be properly trained and evaluated before they operate any forklift. The training must consist of a combination of formal instruction (classroom work) and practical training (demonstrations) and conclude with an evaluation of the driver’s performance in the workplace. The trainers must have knowledge, training and experience to train drivers and evaluate their competence.

Training Program Content
1910.178(l)(3) – The regulation is very specific as to the content of the initial training, unless it can be shown that they do not apply to your workplace. The training content requirements can be found in your GAWDA OSHA Manual, Section 21, page 3.

Three-Year Evaluation and Refresher Training
1910.178(l)(4) – Evaluate the performance of each forklift operator’s performance once every three years to ensure that the employee has retained and continues to use the knowledge and skills necessary to operate the vehicle safely. The evaluation of performance cannot be met by a written exam alone. The evaluation must include observing the operator during normal operation to determine if the operator is performing safely, and asking pertinent questions to ensure the operator has the knowledge or experience needed to operate a truck safely. The evaluation must be documented; a form for this purpose is in your GAWDA OSHA Manual, Section 21.

The standard requires that refresher training be conducted and documented when:

  • The operator has been observed operating the forklift in an unsafe manner.
  • The operator has been involved in an accident or near miss.
  • The operator has received an evaluation that indicates unsafe operation.
  • The operator is assigned a different type of truck.
  • A workplace condition changes in a manner which could affect safe operation.

The final rule provides a performance-oriented and cost-effective approach to refresher training. The type, amount and timing of refresher training depend on several factors, such as the equipment and terrain characteristics, nature of the unsafe act, and the potential for an accident.

Avoid Duplication of Training
1910.178(l)(5) – You may avoid duplication of training for new hires if your evaluation of the driver and prior training was adequate. You should refer to the standard for more specific details.

1910.178(l)(6) – You are required to certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated and has proven to be competent to operate the truck safely. The operator would need additional training in those elements where his or her performance indicates the need for further training and for new types of equipment and areas of operations. The certification must include the name of the operator, the date of the training, the date of the evaluation, and the identity of the person(s) performing the training or evaluation. A form for this purpose is included in your GAWDA OSHA Manual, Section 21.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
GAWDA OSHA & EPA Consultant Thomas W. Eynon is senior associate at B&R Compliance Associates LLC, based in Merritt, North Carolina. Members can reach him at (252) 745-7391 and at