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What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is Required to Operate a Forklift?
Before suiting up for operating a forklift, it is essential that you receive the proper certification for operating one safely. Forklift certification should be your number one priority before jumping into one and starting it up.
OSHA Requirements require you to be properly trained to operate a forklift. Here at Hard Hat Training, we provide OSHA Aligned training that will prepare you to operate, maintain, and follow all safety precautions when operating a forklift and get your forklift license (aka: wallet card).
Forklifts as a Type of Powered Industrial Truck
OSHA regards forklifts as a type of powered industrial truck (PIT) and holds forklifts to PIT standards accordingly.
These standards apply to all operations associated with forklifts including loading and unloading, working with hazardous materials, and vehicle maintenance.
Basic Forklift Operating Requirements
Some of the standards and requirements for operating a forklift include:
- You must be eighteen or older.
- You must be properly trained.
- You must be evaluated as competent enough.
- You must wear adequate PPE/safety equipment.
PPE for Forklift Operators
OSHA requires employers to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their forklift operators. Your employer will determine which PPE is required for operating the type of forklift at your workplace. The PPE that is most commonly used at workplaces with forklifts are:
- Hard hats
- Reflective vests
- Safety gloves
- Safety-toed footwear
Each of these pieces of PPE protect against different workplace hazards typically associated with forklifts. These hazards can come from operating a forklift, working in an area where forklifts are operated, or performing maintenance on a forklift. It is important you know why you need to wear the proper PPE for any of these situations involving a forklift.
When working with forklifts, there are many struck-by hazards to worry about such as falling objects from loads and collisions with forklifts.
However, the number one cause of death when operating a forklift is overturns. In many of these cases, an employee strikes their head against the ground or forklift equipment. Using a hard hat is the best way to prevent these accidents and prevent damage to your head.
Not only that, but wearing a hard hat will also prevent you from being injured from falling loads or collisions with a forklift.
Reflective vests are perhaps the most self-explanatory piece of PPE. Wearing a reflective vest ensures that your fellow employees can see you when you are operating the forklift or working around one. The bright colors make it much easier to be aware of your location at all times and prevent struck-by accidents involving a forklift.
Vehicle maintenance is an important safety practice regarding forklifts. Always wear safety gloves when handling forklift batteries. Forklift batteries contain sulfuric acid that can cause chemical burns should it come into contact with your skin.
Safety-toed footwear, such as steel-toed shoes, is important when operating a forklift to prevent damage should a load fall onto your feet. This is also important when handling batteries due to their weight and risk of falling on your feet. Safety-toed footwear should also be able to protect your feet from sulfuric acid if you are conducting maintenance on a forklift battery
Important Parts of a Forklift
Understanding the basic anatomy of the exterior and interior of a forklift can help you understand what hazards there are when operating with or around one. It can also help you understand what safety components are already on the forklift to help protect you in the event of an overturn or accident.
- Seat belt: Wearing a seat belt is essential to prevent you from being thrown from the cab of the forklift. If the type of forklift you are operating has one, be sure to wear it at all times.
- Overhead Guard: Every forklift should have an overhead guard, also known as a falling object protective structure (FOPS). These are grates or windows made of a plexiglass material around and over the cab that protect you from debris and falling objects.
- Rollover Guard: Another important structural component of a forklift is a rollover protective structure (ROPS). These are a frame like structure around the cab that protects you from being crushed under the forklift in the event of a roll-over.
- Forks: The forks of the forklift are what you use to lift objects and can be hazardous if operated poorly. Forks can pin other employees if you drive unsafely. Grabbing loads with the forks improperly can also lead to falling objects or vehicle roll-overs.
- Mast: The mast of the forklift is the set of rails that let the forks reach upward. The height of the mast might exceed the height of the area you are working in if working indoors. This can lead the mast to get caught on the ceiling and cause rollover accidents if you continue to drive with the mast caught. Consider the height of the indoor area and the extent to which you should raise the mast of the forklift before operation.
- Battery: The battery of a forklift usually acts as a counterweight to the load in the front due to its extreme weight. As well as being exceptionally heavy, the battery of the forklift contains sulfuric acid and can be hazardous if it comes into contact with your skin.
Additional Safety Information
Putting safety first doesn’t just mean taking the training and wearing the PPE needed for operating a forklift. There are some important things that should be considered and reviewed before operation.
This safety information, such as capacity labels and the operator’s manual, will vary from each type of forklift you handle. You need to be familiar with all this information before operating the forklift.
Follow safe practices when operating around a forklift as well. Do not ride on a forklift unless there is an additional seat for another passenger other than the operator. Do not let an operator lift you on the forks and do not stand under a forklift load. More safety tips like this can be found on the CDC website.
Types of Forklifts
There are a few types and variants of forklifts. The difference between them can mean a great difference in how and where they are operated. Some of the forklifts recognized by OSHA Requirements include:
- Sit-down Forklifts
- Stand-up Forklifts
- Vertical Mast Skid Steer Loaders
- Walkie Stacker
Forklifts can be used for both indoor and outdoor operations. For outdoor operations, there are also rough terrain variants. Forklifts can also vary depending on their energy source; some forklifts are electric and others are gas-powered
Powered Industrial Trucks and Similar Vehicles
A lot of earthmover vehicles appear similar in function and anatomy to powered industrial trucks; however, OSHA has different standards for both. What they categorize as an earth mover and as a powered industrial truck is determined by the primary function of each.
Earth mover vehicles are primarily used for moving earth and landscaping operations. Powered industrial trucks are primarily used for lifting loads and heavy objects with forks rather than buckets. Such other vehicles and equipment like scissor lifts and skid steers perform different operations and are not considered powered industrial trucks.
Click “Training” in our main menu above to view our entire course catalog including all of our forklift courses and the many training formats that each are available in. – Stay Safe.