Yes! A Lift Truck Standard with Teeth!

Remember the old ANSI B56.1-1969, Safety Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks? It read: “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.”

As standards went, that one had no teeth. Lift truck owners could get by with any kind of training — or lack thereof. Even then, citations were being issued under the general-duty clause section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act because the standard didn’t specifically cover the violations. For example, the most citations that were issued under the general-duty clause were for employees riding on the forks of a lift truck.

Now we have the Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training (PITOT) Standard, 29 CFR 1910.178. It’s not a bulky standard but it gets the job done. PITOT gives OSHA’s compliance officers some solid provisions to cite when they spot an operator training violation or a faulty lift truck being operated.

Results? We have some early returns based on OSHA’s enforcement statistics for a period between October 1, 1999, and March 5, 2002.

Let’s start with the basic 1910.178(1)(1): The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in this paragraph (1).

That paragraph in itself isn’t particularly threatening to a lift truck owner who doesn’t want to train his operators. But when the details are spelled out in other parts of section (1), the standard starts to bite. That paragraph was cited the most, with 691 violations; 203 of these were deemed “serious” by OSHA (“serious” meaning that there is “substantial probability” that death or “serious harm could result” from a condition).

According to enforcement officers, this general citation is usually accompanied by a more specific regulation that has been violated. Most often it is 1910.178(l)(6): Certification: The employer shall certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated as required by this paragraph (1). The certification shall 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.

That paragraph accounted for 681 citations, and 510 of them were considered “serious.”

What those numbers mean is that lift truck operator training should be taken seriously. In a 1999 analysis of 53 fatalities involving lift trucks, in 42 percent of the accidents the operator was crushed by a tipping vehicle, and in 25 percent the operator was crushed between the vehicle and a surface. In 11 percent of the fatalities, the operator was crushed between two vehicles; 10 percent involved an operator being struck or run over by a vehicle.

Do these figures mean that the operator training standard stops with training and certification — that’s all you have to do? No, you also have to keep the vehicles in good operating condition.

Third on the list of most-cited paragraphs in PITOT is 1910.178(p)(1): If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating conditions.

This provision drew 648 citations, and 431 of them were serious. So the enforcement officers will be inspecting not only your paper trails but also the condition of your lift trucks.

To review all the parts of the regulation, access www.osha.gov on the Internet. Then follow:

• Regulatory and Compliance Links;

• OSHA Regulations (Standards — 29 CFR);

• Part 1910 Occupational Safety and Health Standards;

• 1910.178 — Powered Industrial Trucks.

Remember, I have listed just the three most cited parts of the regulation. If you’ve been ignoring your lift trucks and their operators completely, some OSHA compliance officer is liable to show you all the teeth in 1910.178.

Bernie Knill, contributing editor, bernknill@aol.com