Powered Industrial Trucks: OSHA 1917.43

Overhead guards on forklifts protect operators from large falling objects while protective plastic covers stop rain, snow and hazardous debris. Image courtesy of Wy’East Products, Inc.

Important to Know:

Forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks, are used in countless industries, including manufacturing, warehousing and construction. They can do what humans cannot: lift and move bulky or heavy loads. Whether they’re unloading goods from trucks or raising boxes of products to shelf height in a distribution center, forklifts are indispensable in many workplaces.

They’re also potentially dangerous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forklifts were involved in 9,050 nonfatal workplace injuries or illnesses with days away from work in 2017 in the U.S. These cases resulted in workers taking a median of 13 days away from work – higher than the median of eight days for all cases. That same year, there were 74 fatal work injuries involving forklifts.1

Injuries and fatalities involving forklifts include striking pedestrians, falling to a lower level and being hit by a falling object or objects.

Standard Requirements Include:

  • When operators are exposed to overhead falling hazards like boxes, cartons or packages, forklift trucks must be equipped with securely attached overhead guards that protect the operator.
  • Overhead guards shall not obstruct the operator’s view, and openings in the top of the guard shall not exceed 6in (15.24cm) in one of the two directions, width or length. Larger openings are permitted if no opening allows the smallest unit of cargo being handled to fall through the guard.
  • Overhead guards shall be large enough to extend over the operator during all truck operations, including forward tilt.
  • Modifications that might affect the vehicle’s capacity or safety – like counterweights – cannot be added without approval from the manufacturer or an engineer who has consulted with the manufacturer.
  • Unauthorized personnel are prohibited from riding on powered industrial trucks. A safe place to ride shall be provided when riding is authorized.
  • Only stable and safely arranged loads within the rated capacity of the truck shall be handled.
  • The employer shall direct drivers to slow down and sound the horn at cross-aisles and other locations where visibility is obstructed.
  • When cargo is being towed on pipe trucks or similar equipment, a safe means shall be provided to protect the driver from sliding loads.
  • Powered industrial trucks must be maintained in safe working order. Safety devices must not be removed or made inoperative. Only designated persons shall perform maintenance and repair.
  • Employees may be elevated by forklift trucks only when a platform is secured to the lifting carriage, or forks, and meets requirements specified in the standard.

Increase Your Knowledge:

You can find the complete details of the standard on the OSHA website at: www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1917/1917.43 WMHS

Did You Know:

In addition to complying with the standard and making sure vehicles are safe, employers should ensure that employees:

  • Not operate a forklift unless they have been trained and licensed
  • Wear seatbelts if they are available
  • Report any damage or problems that occur to a forklift during their shift
  • Exit from a stand-up type forklift with rear-entry access by stepping backward if a lateral tip over occurs
  • Use extreme caution on grades or ramps
  • On grades, tilt the load back and raise it only as far as needed to clear the road surface
  • Not raise or lower the forks while the forklift is moving
  • Not handle loads that are heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift
  • Operate the forklift at a speed that will permit it to be stopped safely
  • Look toward the travel path and keep a clear view of it
  • Not use a forklift to elevate workers who are standing on the forks
  • Not drive to another location with the work platform elevated

“Two key clauses in this standard address how important it is to safety that forklift operators can see where they’re going, and that they be protected from overhead hazards. Maintaining visibility is especially challenging outdoors, during inclement weather. That’s why I designed forklift covers that keep both water and sunshine glare from affecting the operator’s vision. They also offer protection from falling items with the same high-impact polycarbonate plastic that is used in riot shields.” -Steve Puls, Founder, Wy’East Products, Inc, 888-401-5500, clearcap.com.

  1. bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/forklifts-2017.htm