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New OSHA Regs Specify Forklift Training Measures
Eye on Safety: New OSHA regulations spell out in greater detail what training is required for forklift operators.

By Don Rung
Date Posted: 4/1/1999

Forklift regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration require "only trained and authorized operators shall be permitted to operate a powered industrial truck. Methods shall be devised to train operators in the safe operation of powered industrial trucks."

The traditional complaint with regard to the standard has been the lack of definition as to what constitutes a "trained" operator and the type and scope of "methods"to be devised.

In the grand tradition of "be careful what you wish for," OSHA issued new forklift regulations at the end of 1998. They are substantially more specific with regard to what is required under the standard, how it will be evaluated by their compliance officers, and what the associated documentation requirements will be. The focus is certainly not misplaced given the fact that powered industrial truck operations account for over 100 fatalities and 38,000 injuries annually.

The most significant features of the new standard are:

Employers will be required to provide initial and refresher training to operators of their powered industrial trucks, with the frequency of the refresher training clearly reflecting the knowledge, skills and demonstrated ability of the industrial truck operators.

Every operator or potential operator of a powered industrial truck, including part-time, seasonal or substitute, must be trained before being allowed to operate a powered industrial truck. This also includes "experienced" operators who have operated powered industrial trucks for other employers.

The training must be conducted by an individual with the necessary knowledge, training and experience not only to train operators but also to judge their competency. An experienced operator does not qualify as a trainer unless he has received specific training in how to teach or train and in the theoretical hazards inherent in powered industrial truck operation.

The content or scope of the required training is not significantly changed from the existing standard.

The employer must provide a combination of classroom instruction and practical "hands-on" training. Use of a video or CD-ROM by itself will not be deemed adequate.

Employers will have to do an operational performance evaluation of each operator a minimum of every three years. If this operational performance evaluation indicates any deficiencies, retraining specific to those deficiencies will be required.

Existing operators must be evaluated in terms of their understanding of theory and practices and must receive an operational performance evaluation conducted by a qualified instructor.

Under the standard, you must be able to document that your operators have successfully demonstrated their ability to safely operate their powered industrial truck.

If you hire an operator who has been trained under the new standard, you will be required to have documentation of the training completed, certification of successful completion and contact information for the individual who conducted the training.

The training you provide cannot be a "canned," one-size-fits-all, general program. It must be specific to your site and operations and to the equipment being operated.

(Editor’s Note: Donald R. Rung is vice president for technical field services for Lumber Insurance Companies in Framingham, Mass. He may be reached at (508) 872-8111.)

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