Kevin Ian Schmidt

Safety Standards for Forklift Programs

As part of establishing proper safety standards for a forklift program, besides site specific safety precautions, you must be aware of OSHA requirements and know how to apply them.


If you are going to implement your own in-house operator training program, you should make yourself familiar with the OSHA standards for Powered Industrial trucks and any relevant operator’s manuals for the specific equipment at your workplace. OSHA mandates that your forklift operators meet or exceed the requirements of the OSHA standard 1910.178.

Proper safety standards for powered industrial truck training

  • Identify the types of powered industrial trucks in your workplace and those employees who will be required to operate the vehicles.
  • Identify your training methods.
  • Develop the content for your training program.
  • Provide for employee evaluation.
  • Include refresher training.

It is important to recognize that training, although essential, will not be enough to eliminate accidents. To be most effective, operator training should be part of a larger comprehensive powered industrial truck safety program that includes the following elements:

  • Hazard identification and possible solutions.
  • Training (of both truck operators and those personnel working near lift trucks) and evaluation of operator competence.
  • Supervision (site survey, ongoing hazard assessment).
  • Operating procedures (company policies, recordkeeping, safety practices).
  • Maintenance and repair procedures.
  • Facility design.
  • Lift truck selection criteria (equipment survey of truck types, attachments and modifications).

Truck-related Topics to Include in Driver Training [29 CFR 1910.178(l)(3)(i)]

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate.
  • Differences between the truck and the automobile.
  • Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work.
  • Engine or motor operation.
  • Steering and maneuvering.
  • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading).
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations.
  • Vehicle capacity.
  • Vehicle stability.
  • Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.
  • Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries.
  • Operating limitations.


As part of the safety standards of a comprehensive forklift safety program, you should have a daily forklift safety checklist, so equipment concerns are properly identified and corrected, and to ensure OSHA compliance(1910.178(q)(7)). OSHA does not mandate that the daily forklift inspections be recorded. Therefore, it is the employer’s discretion to establish the time period of powered industrial truck evaluation record retention.

So, despite the fact that OSHA does not mandate it, employing forklift assessment checklists, either written or electronic, are recommended for two reasons:

  • Makes certain that each of the fundamental features of the vehicle are inspected regularly, as well as
  • Provides you with proof to an OSHA inspector that the vehicles have been inspected like mandated.
Check Out: OSHA General Duty Clause

Recommended Forklift Safety Checklist Items:

  1. Does the forklift specification meet the operating requirement?
  2. Is clear forklift load placard provided?forklift safety standards
  3. Is seat belt provided and operable?
  4. Is the maximum speed controlled?
  5. Do horn, reversing beeper, proximity indicator and flashing light function properly?
  6. Is falling object protective structure (FOPS) provided on the forklift?
  7. Is the appropriate maintenance performed regularly?
  8. Are forklift maintenance and repair records maintained?
  9. Is there enough fuel inside forklift?
  10. Is forklift battery charged?
  11. Are the forklift tires in good condition?
  12. Do the forklift brakes work?
  13. Does the steering work well?
  14. Does the gear control work?
  15. Are the left and right mirrors available and clear?
  16. Do all indicators and gauges function properly?
  17. Are there any liquid leaks from the forklift?
  18. Are fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid and coolant levels enough?
  19. Is portable fire extinguisher fitted on the forklift?
  20. Is wearing hard hat a must for forklift operators?
  21. Any other personal protective equipment such as eye goggles, ear plugs and safety shoes required to be worn?
Looking to learn more about powered equipment safety? Check out the Powered Equipment Inspection Books I have published on Amazon, or any of my other posts on powered equipment safety

Powered Equipment Safety Standards that are often overlooked:

  • Approved trucks need to have a visible plate or some kind of identifying mark stating that it has been approved by the testing laboratory, this is usually included on a purchased truck. Routinely inspect to ensure that this plate remains attached.
  • Any modifications that affect the capacity and operation of the machine cannot be made without written consent of the manufacturer.
  • If the machine has had a front end attachment added to it, the user must see that the machine plate be updated to identify the use of the attachment, and the proper weight handling of the equipment when using the attachment.



When establishing an OSHA compliant forklift program, or reviewing your current program, below are some site specific questions you should use as guidelines:

Site Specific Powered Equipment Safety Standards

  1. Are there speed limits for powered equipment on site? Are they posted? Is the equipment speed limited?
  2. Are there appropriate traffic management plans at the plant site to prevent collision of forklifts with people and other mobile equipment by separating them in time or space? Do you have STOP signs posted? Do you have walkways for pedestrians clearly mapped out?
  3. Are all safety procedures related to forklift inspection, operation, clean up and maintenance established, maintained and communicated to related workers?
  4. Does monitoring and supervision system for ensuring all safety standards work?
  5. Do work schedules remove completely the necessity for extreme forklift speed?
  6. Are uncertified drivers allowed to operate forklift? Do you have a visible license requirement to ensure this?
  7. Is safe distance from the edge of ramps, docks, drains, gutters, floor openings and any other opening and obstacles established to prevent forklift accident?
  8. Are every ramp or dock edges safeguarded and visibly marked?
  9. Is the procedure for the safe battery charging or fuel filling established?


Now that we have established how to set-up a quality training, OSHA compliant training program, and understand how to identify site specific safety concerns, it is important to also have a solid record retention program.

Despite the fact that OSHA does not mandate the daily safety checklists be maintained, it is a best practice to retain them for a period of time, to establish to an OSHA inspector that the mandated inspections are performed.


You can follow this suggested Daily Safety Checklist record retention procedure, if you do not have an electronic form:

  • Have each daily checklist maintained on the equipment for the current day.
  • Have each form turned in to the supervisor at the end of the shift.

Maintain the records for 14days.


Forklift maintenance records should be maintained in a separate file. If the records are not maintained electronically, you can follow my suggested procedure:

  • Make a hanging file folder for each piece of equipment, organized by serial number.
  • Work with your repair vender, to invoice each repair or purchased parts by equipment serial number.

Maintain these records for 2years.


Establish a driver training log, so that you can provide an OSHA inspector with the list upon request, as well as track retraining dates. I suggest maintaining these records electronically, but if that is cost prohibitive, or if you want a physical copy as backup, here is my recommended procedure:

  • Combine each certified driver’s test, and equipment specific evaluation forms.
  • File each alphabetically in a binder, which is maintained by training year.
  • Once a month, audit the records against a list of terminated employees, remove those records and file in a terminated employee binder for the year.

Maintain these records for 3years.



Quality safety standards, a solid driver training program and a comprehensive record retention process are what is needed to ensure your program is safe and effective.

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