Mounting and Dismounting
Before climbing into the driver's seat, wash and dry your hands and check the soles of your shoes for dirt, oil and any other substance that could make you slip. As you enter the forklift, grab onto a secure anchor point. Do not grab the steering wheel because it might turn. Do not jump in or out of the forklift's cab. Instead, slide your body slowly in or out of the vehicle. Wear your seatbelt at all times when the forklift is in operation.
When the forklift is moving, you must always watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles in the way. The forklift is equipped with a horn you can use at your discretion when driving forward. A warning signal automatically sounds when the forklift operates in reverse. Never assume that someone will see the forklift and stay out of its way. Forklifts can turn quickly, and pedestrians might not realize the operator is about to change direction. Slow down when driving through crowded areas or on slippery floors.
A forklift becomes very unstable when it is loaded with heavy items, causing it to tip over and injure the operator or nearby workers. There are specific steps you can take to balance the load and reduce the risk of tipping over. Lower the forks as much as possible when carrying a heavy load. Slow, smooth turns are safer than suddenly changing direction. If you must haul items down an incline steeper than 10 degrees, keep the forks pointed upgrade and drive backward down the slope.
The company should designate safe areas for the employees to park their forklifts. These parking areas must not obstruct any walkways or exits. When parking a forklift, slowly bring the vehicle to a stop, set the parking brake, turn off the ignition and remove the keys. If you are parking on an incline, turn the front wheels away from the downgrade so the forklift will not slide.
OSHA Forklift Seatbelt Regulations
Unlike cars, forklift seat belts are not meant to protect drivers from high-speed collisions. Instead, forklift seat belts are intended to protect drivers from being crushed, or "mousetrapped," in the event the forklift tips over. As the forklift begins to tip, the driver's natural urge is to jump out leading to the driver becoming crushed between the forklift and the ground. The seat belts save lives by preventing drivers from jumping.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration does not have a specific rule requiring forklifts to have seatbelts. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, enforced by OSHA, employers are required to protect employees from "serious and recognized hazards." All powered industrial trucks manufactured after 1992 are required by OSHA to have seat belts or another type of restraint specifically to reduce the risk of being crushed, or "mousetrapped," if the forklift overturns. Mousetrapping is a recognized and serious hazard, and OSHA would enforce the need to have seat belts on forklifts under this rule.
If a forklift does not have a seatbelt, OSHA can mandate installation of one. This requires the employer to be notified by the forklift manufacturer that mousetrapping hazard exists and that a retrofitting program has been initiated. If the employer does not take advantage of the retrofitting program, once it knows it exists, OSHA can cite the company for failure to comply.
Wearing Seat Belts
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration requires that operators use seat belts when they are furnished. Employers are responsible for ensuring that forklift operators are wearing their seatbelts. If the operator does not use seat belts, the employer could be cited for failure to comply with OSHA standards under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires companies to protect employees from recognized hazards.
Penalties and Compliance
An OSHA compliance officer who observes a forklift operator not using a seat belt can issue a citation to the employer for failing to comply with OSHA regulations. Before issuing the citation, the compliance officer is required to check with the manufacturer of the forklift to make sure that the machine either was manufactured with a seatbelt or that a retrofit kit had been made available to the employer. If the forklift has a seat belt, or if there is a retrofit kit available, the officer will issue a citation. The employer also may have to pay the penalty to OSHA. The amount of the penalty depends on the degree of danger and whether the employer had previous citations.