The Revised Powered Industrial Truck Standard

The revised rule on powered industrial trucks

(29 CFR 1910.178) goes into effect on March 1, 1999.  The revision was expected for some time and was finalized on December 1, 1998, giving employers just four months to come into compliance.  According to OSHA, the rule will prevent eleven deaths and 9,400 injuries each year.  It will also save employers $135 million per year-- $83 million in reduced costs such as medical savings, workersí compensation administration and lost productivity, and another $52 million in reducing accident related property damages.

Employee Training

The revised standard clarifies the content of employee training to ensure that affected employees operate powered industrial trucks (forklifts) safely.  Training must be comprehensive, understandable, and an evaluation of each powered industrial truck operatorís performance must be conducted at least once every three years.  Letís take a look at the training requirements that you must implement to ensure that you are in compliance with the revised standard.

Training Program Implementation

 Prior to permitting an employee to operate a powered industrial truck, the employer shall ensure each operator has successfully completed an appropriate training program.  Trainees may operate a powered industrial truck only under the direct supervision of persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators and evaluate their competence, and only where the operation does not endanger the trainee or other employees.  Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operatorís performance in the workplace.  Only persons who have the proper knowledge, training, and experience shall conduct operator training and evaluation.

Training Program Content

Powered industrial truck operators shall receive initial training in the following topics, except in those topics that the employer can demonstrate are not applicable to safe operation of the truck in the employerís workplace. 

Truck related topics would include: 

(a)    Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate.

(b)    Differences between the truck and the automobile.

(c)    Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work.

(d)    Engine or motor operation.

(e)    Steering and maneuvering.

(f)     Visibility (including restrictions due to loading).

(g)    Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations.

(h)    Vehicle capacity and vehicle stability.

(i)     Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.

(j)     Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries.

(k)    Any operating limitations and any other operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operatorís manual for the types of vehicle that the employee is being trained to operate.

Workplace related topics would include: 

(a)    Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated.

(b)    Composition of loads to be carried and load stability.

(c)    Load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking.

(d)    Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated.

(e)    Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated.

(f)     Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicleís stability.

(g)    Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust.

(h)    Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.

Refresher Training and Evaluation

Refresher training in relevant topics must be provided to the operator when the operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner, involved in an accident or near-miss incident, or has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely.  Refresher training will also occur when the operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck or a condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safe operation of the truck.  An evaluation of each powered industrial truck operatorís performance shall be conducted at least once every three years.  If an operator has previously received training that is appropriate to the truck and the working conditions encountered, additional retraining in those areas is not required if the operator has been evaluated and found competent to operate the truck safely.


 The employer shall ensure that each operator has been trained and evaluated as required.  The certification shall include the name of the operator, the date of the training and evaluation, and the identity of the person performing the training or evaluation.  If the employee was hired before December 1, 1999, the initial training and evaluation of that employee must be completed by December 1, 1999.  If the employee was hired after December 1, 1999, the initial training and evaluation of that employee must be completed before the employee is assigned to operate a powered industrial truck.

Rules of Truck Operation

The following rules must always be followed: 

(a)    Trucks must not be driven up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object.

(b)    No person shall be allowed to stand or pass under the elevated portion of any truck, whether loaded or empty.

(c)    Unauthorized personnel must not be permitted to ride on powered industrial trucks.  A safe place to ride must be provided where riding of trucks is authorized.

(d)    The placing of arms or legs between the uprights of the mast or outside the running lines of the truck must be prohibited.

(e)    When a powered industrial truck is left unattended, load-engaging means must be fully lowered, controls must be neutralized, power shut off, and brakes set.  Wheels must be blocked if the truck is parked on an incline.

(f)     A powered industrial truck is considered unattended when the operator is 25 feet or more away from the vehicle which remains in his view, or whenever the operator leaves the vehicle and it is not in his view.

(g)    When the operator of an industrial truck is dismounted and within 25 feet of the truck still in his view, the load engaging means must be fully lowered, controls neutralized, and the brakes set to prevent movement.

(h)    A safe distance must be maintained from the edge of ramps or platforms while on any elevated dock, platform, or freight car.

(i)     Brakes must be set and wheel blocks must be in place to prevent movement of trucks, trailers, or railroad cars while loading or unloading.

(j)     There must be sufficient headroom under overhead installations, lights, pipes, sprinkler systems, etc.

(k)    An overhead guard must be used as protection against falling objects.

(l)     A load backrest extension must be used whenever necessary to minimize the possibility of the load or part of it from falling rearward.

(m)  When lifting personnel a safety platform must be firmly secured to the lifting carriage and/or forks and personnel on the platform must be able to shut off power to the truck.

Rules of the Road

Remember that all traffic regulations must be observed including authorized speed limits.  The operator needs to slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed.  If the load being carried obstructs forward view, the driver needs to travel with the load trailing.  Maintain a safe distance (at least three truck lengths) from the truck ahead and never pass another truck at intersections or other blind spots.  Cross railroad tracks diagonally whenever possible and never park closer than eight feet from the center of the tracks.  When ascending or descending grades in excess of ten percent always drive with the load upgrade.  Remember that on all grades the load needs to be tilted back and raised only as far as necessary to clear the road surface.  Under all travel conditions operate the truck at a speed that will permit it to be brought to a stop in a safe manner.  Secure all dockboards or bridgeplates securely before they are driven over and donít exceed their rated capacity.  While negotiating turns, reduce speed to a safe level by turning the hand steering wheel in a smooth, sweeping motion.  

Carrying the Load

 Only handle stable or safely arranged loads.  Exercise caution when handling off-center loads which cannot be centered.  Use extreme care when tilting the load forward or backward, particularly when high tiering.  Donít tilt an elevated load forward except when the load is in a deposit position over a rack or stack.  When stacking or tiering use only enough backward tilt to stabilize the load.  Only handle loads within the rated capacity of the truck. Counter-weighting of fork trucks must not be done unless approved by the truck manufacturer. 

Service and Repair

Whenever a powered industrial truck is found in any way unsafe or in need of repair, take it out of service until it has been restored to a safe operating condition.  Donít fill fuel tanks with the engine running and clean up or evaporate any spilled fuel before restarting the engine.  Be careful when checking the electrolyte level in storage batteries and avoid sparks or open flames.  Trucks in need of repairs to the electrical system must have the battery disconnected prior to such repairs.  Repairs to the fuel and ignition systems of industrial trucks that involve fire hazards must only be conducted in locations designated for those types of repairs.  Perform operating and safety checks at least daily.  When industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, examine the truck after each shift.  Industrial trucks that have water mufflers need to be filled daily or as frequently as necessary to maintain the water level at 75 percent capacity.  Industrial trucks originally approved for gasoline fuel may be converted to liquefied petroleum provided approved conversion equipment is used and results in a truck that embodies the features specified for LP or LPS designated trucks.