Powered Industrial Trucks
OSHA Standard 1910.178: ARA Safety Committee Releases Powered Industrial Trucks Standard for 2013
Powered industrial trucks (PIT), commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, are used primarily to move materials. They can be used to move, raise, lower, or remove large objects or a number of smaller objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers.

The hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks vary depending on the vehicle type and the workplace where the truck is used. Each type of truck presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident, because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. Workplace conditions also present different hazards.

Classes of Powered Industrial Trucks and Power Sources

There are seven different classes of commonly-used powered industrial trucks.
• Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks
• Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks
• Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks
• Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires)
• Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)
• Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors
• Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks (all trucks with forks added on front end are defined as Class VII)

The two main power sources for powered industrial trucks are internal combustion, which uses a traditional engine that runs on liquid petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), gasoline, diesel, or other fuel, and electric, which uses an on-board battery.

Internal Combustion Engines

Forklifts with internal combustion engines can be quickly refueled but require regular maintenance checks for leaks of fuel or oil and worn parts to keep systems working properly. Forklifts powered by internal combustion engines are also used indoors, and may increase exposure to exhaust and noise.

Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is a commonly used fuel for forklifts. It is a safe fuel when handled properly. When handled improperly, it can cause serious injury or death.

Potential Hazards:

• LPG vapor is heavier than air and will seek the lowest lying area. If not adequately dissipated, it will collect in pockets and possibly ignite when exposed to a heat source.
• LPG is extremely flammable.
• LPG is extremely cold when exposed to the atmosphere. If your skin is exposed to LPG, you can get frostbite.
• The employer shall monitor environmental exposure of employees to carbon monoxide whenever internal combustion engine powered industrial trucks as defined in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, section 1910.178(a)(1) are operated indoors to ensure that carbon monoxide levels do not exceed those given in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, section 1910.1000, Table Z-1-A. The air monitoring shall be done at least quarterly and represent exposures during a day of highest usage in the areas where employee carbon monoxide exposure is most likely.
Electric Engines

Electric-powered forklifts are most commonly used indoors in warehouses. Unlike internal combustion forklifts, electric forklifts are quiet and generally non-polluting.

Potential Hazards:

• Electric forklifts are powered by large lead-acid batteries, which must be routinely charged.


Powered industrial trucks often use various attachments in place of traditional forks. These attachments increase the versatility of the truck, but can present important safety considerations, including stability, capacity, and visibility.

Some common attachments are:
• Slipsheet attachments which avoid the use of pallets.
• Container handlers designed to lift shipping containers.
• Carton clamps equipped with a pressure valve to squeeze the load.
• Cotton or pulp bale clamps that grab and hold bales.
• Paper roll handlers.
• Barrel clamps.
• Rotators that grab and rotate the load.
• Extending or telescoping forks such as in reach and turret trucks.
• Personnel platforms specially designed for lifting personnel.

Operators must be trained in the proper use of attachments because they alter the performance of the forklift. Attachments affect the truck’s performance by changing its center of gravity, visibility, and capacity.


There are several different types of forklift tires, depending on how the forklift is used. Common types of forklift tires include pneumatic, solid, and polyurethane. As part of the daily inspection of the forklift, check tire condition, including cuts and gouges, and check pressure for air-filled tire

Record Keeping Requirements

OSHA expects that records of both the required training of powered industrial truck operators and inspections of the powered industrial trucks will be kept in a log that is easily accessible and legible. 

Training/Evaluation Requirements

It is a violation of Federal law for anyone UNDER 18 years of age to operate a forklift or for anyone OVER 18 years of age who is not properly trained and certified to do so.

Only trained and competent operators are permitted to operate a powered industrial truck. All powered industrial truck operators must be trained and certified specifically for the types of trucks they use.
The OSHA standard requires operators to undergo a training program based on the general principles of safe truck operation, the types of vehicle(s) being used in the workplace, the hazards of the workplace created by the use of the vehicle(s), and the general safety requirements of the OSHA standard. Formal (lecture, video, etc.) and practical (demonstration and practical exercises) training must be provided. Employers must also certify (and document) that each operator has received the training and evaluate each operator at least once every three years.

Prior to operating the truck in the workplace, the employer must evaluate the operator's performance and determine the operator to be competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely. Refresher training is needed whenever an operator demonstrates a deficiency in the safe operation of the truck or is involved in an accident. Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace. [29 CFR 1910.178(l)(2)(ii)] The evaluation must take place in the workplace so that the evaluator can observe the operator under workplace conditions (CPL 2-1.28A). 

Before developing your operator training program, you should become familiar with the OSHA standard for powered industrial trucks and any operator’s manuals for the equipment in your workplace.

• 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.

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).


Employers must certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated for specific powered industrial trucks in accordance with the OSHA standard. [29 CFR 1910.178(l)(6)]

The certification must include:
• Operator name.
• Training date.
• Evaluation date.
• Name of person(s) performing the training or evaluation
• Type of class of truck authorized to operate.

Always utilize a full-fledged form to capture all the required information for each PIT operator (sample form:, and keep it on file in the office or someplace so it will not get lost or damaged, even if you issue forklift drivers licenses for your operators to carry.

Where to Find Training
• Local universities, colleges, technology centers

Daily checklists for each type of industrial truck are available from the truck manufacturer.

Refer to the owner’s manual, specifications and manufacturer’s recommendations to modify the checklist for trucks being operated in your workplace. Sample checklists for internal combustion and electric trucks can be modified to suit your workplace needs and are included in the addendum to this document obtained through ARA headquarters.

Sample lists can be found at the following links: 

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