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Employer Guide to Forklift Liability in the Workplace

Employment Law Lookout (11/18/2015) Mark A. Lies II; Patrick D. Joyce

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines a powered industrial truck (PIT) as “any mobile power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack, or tier materials.” PITs include forklifts, manlifts, scissor lifts, boom lifts, and motorized hand trucks. The requirements for the operation and training of PITs outlined by OSHA applies to all such equipment.

OSHA’s powered industrial trucks standard requires that “the employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely…”. The standard also requires that operators receive training in the topics that are applicable to the safe operation of the truck in the employer’s workplace. Employees must be trained separately for each different type of forklift they will be using. Employers must also develop a written program to train all employees who will be required and authorized to operate PITs and actually observe the employee operating the equipment under the physical conditions at the workplace, such as aisles, ramps, and loading docks. The employer must provide a certificate stating the employee has completed the training. The employee must be retrained and recertified every three years, at a minimum, or after an accident or “near miss” which resulted from an unsafe act. Employers are advised to conduct inspections of each individual piece of equipment at the beginning of each shift, and after any maintenance has been done. The standard list includes a number of conditions under which a PIT must be removed from service, which employers should regularly review.