Powered Industrial Truck Safety
- Recognize the types of PITs most commonly used in industry and their purpose in the workplace
- Identify who is responsible for maintaining, refueling and recharging PITS and the requirements for pre-operational and operational inspections
- Identify safe practices to follow when operating, loading, and parking a PIT
- Identify workplace, vehicle-based, and operator-influenced conditions that may contribute to PIT-related accidents
- Recognize the key components of a comprehensive safety training program
A powered industrial truck (PIT) is a mobile, power-propelled truck that is equipped to carry, push, pull, lift, stack, or tier materials, making it an essential piece of equipment on many job sites. PITs are commonly referred to as forklifts or lift trucks, and can be ridden or controlled by a walking operator. Only trained and authorized workers are permitted to operate a forklift in the workplace - even if driving one is a very small part of their job.
Because of the unique characteristics of PITs, which vary by vehicle type and manufacturer, this training cannot provide operational training. Additionally, this training does not cover rough terrain fork trucks (tele-handlers) used on construction sites.
Inspection and Maintenance
PITs require scheduled maintenance to remain in good working order. Do not attempt repairs unless you are authorized. Remove any PIT from service that exhibits issues that could render the vehicle unsafe, such as mechanical breakdown, smoke, fire, unusual odors, or sounds, and leakage.
Conduct a thorough inspection prior to operating the vehicle that includes fluid levels, hoses, the operator compartment, tire condition and pressure, and load handling devices
Many conditions and situations in the workplace present potential hazards when and where PITs are operated. Here are some basic instructions for keeping safe when working with and around powered industrial trucks (PITs).
Workers must watch for obstructions in all directions. Collisions with overhead obstructions can result in damage to building systems and load, or tip overs. Driving over an obstruction can result in a ‘tip over’ and should be avoided. For example, speed bumps and railroad tracks that cannot be avoided should be crossed slowly and at a 45 degree angle to allow one front wheel at a time to roll over the obstruction.
Employees should be trained to be alert for pedestrians and workers, always giving pedestrians the right of way. Workers should drive slowly and sound the horn whenever traveling where vision is obstructed, such as when approaching blind corners. Workers should not allow coworkers to stand or pass beneath an elevated load. Making eye contact with pedestrians when possible, signaling intentions clearly is important for avoiding dangerous scenarios.
These guidelines will help workers prevent accidents:
- Yield to pedestrians
- Drive slowly and sound horn where vision is obstructed
- Use a spotter for blind spots
- Maintain a clear view in the direction of travel
- Do not allow anyone to pass beneath an elevated load
- Make eye contact and signal intentions
Plant/Site safety managers should provide measures to minimize accidents, including:
- Pedestrian walkways with permanent railings or other protective barriers
- Pedestrian walkway striping on the floor if barriers cannot be used
- Adequate walking space on at least one side, if pedestrians must use equipment aisles
- Convex mirrors at blind aisle intersections
- Traffic control signs
Ramps and Grades
Travel “forks upgrade” when loaded to prevent tip over and the danger of the load falling off. Travel “forks downgrade”, when empty, to prevent tip over. Never turn or drive diagonally on a ramp. Pallet trucks must be walked “forks downgrade” regardless of whether loaded or empty or the direction of travel.
When operating on a loading dock, observe posted speed limits, watch for others and be aware of the dock’s edge, which should be painted for improved visibility. Wet or slippery conditions require additional caution. Always make sure that dock plates are properly secured, in good condition, and meet the required load capacity.
Be aware of exhaust and carbon monoxide build up when operating an internal combustion powered PIT in an enclosed area such as a trailer. Only designated PITs can be used in certain hazardous locations. OSHA specifies these designations and employers are responsible for ensure the standard is held to.
Spills such as oil, grease, or water can cause the PIT to skid. Ice, snow, mud, and gravel create an uneven surface and can cause a tip over. Avoid crossing slippery or uneven areas, but drive slowly if unable to avoid; report these conditions and warn others.
PIT operators must always be aware of conditions in their workplace. Awareness of pedestrian traffic is especially important as it is a constant, but unpredictable, factor. Because of the dynamics of the workplace, operators, pedestrians and plant safety managers have a shared responsibility to keep pedestrians safe in the workplace.