With the expansion of warehouse and distribution facilities nationwide, powered industrial trucks, especially forklifts, have become a critical safety issue for many employers. Earlier this month, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued proposed regulations that could have a significant impact on businesses that operate older forklifts and related equipment.
Under current OSHA rules, new forklifts must comply with ASNI B-56.1, a national standard that establishes safety design and equipment requirements. Forklifts that were manufactured before the ANSI standard was adopted are grandfathered from this requirement.
The proposed rule makes several important changes to this requirement. First, OSHA is updating 29 C.F.R. §1910.178(a) (and the corresponding construction industry rule) to reference the current 2020 ANSI standard. Similar updated references apply to other types of powered industrial vehicles. Newly manufactured vehicles would need to meet the requirements of the current ANSI standard.
If an employer operates a forklift manufactured prior to the effective date of the new rule, it can remain in operation if it meets the requirements of the prior ANSI standard. For older forklifts that predate the prior ANSI standard, the employer will have to demonstrate that their design and equipment provide employee protection that is at least equal to the protection provided by trucks designed and equipped in accordance with the prior ANSI standard. In other words, employers will need to document how these old vehicles have equivalent safety design and equipment as compared to those manufactured in accordance with the relevant ANSI standard.
Many companies use outside vendors to inspect and maintain their powered industrial vehicles. If the proposed rule takes effect, employers should consult with these vendors to determine whether older vehicles comply with the new requirements, and if so, how to document this compliance. OSHA is accepting comments on the proposed rule through mid-May.