Common Forklift Questions & Answers

Common Forklift Questions & AnswersHere is a list of Common Forklift Questions & Answers for your reference. This document addresses some commonly asked questions associated with forklifts and their operation. The primary reference source of the information in this document is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) general industry and construction regulations. These relate to general OSHA guidelines and some states have variations on them. If you are in California, Arizona, Nevads Texas, New Mexico or Utah you should refer to your local OSHA office. For forklift training or on site operator training you can contact Forklift University for more information. Forklift University provides forklift certification training in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Austin, Salt Lake City, and other cities across the South West USA.

In the interest of clarity, we have elected to paraphrase the regulations in plain language rather than quoting them directly. In addition to OSHA regulations, we must all be aware of several other factors that influence the design, construction, use, maintenance and operation of forklifts. Some of these are:

General Duty – this regulation outlines the requirement for employers to provide and maintain a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that can, or could, cause death or serious injury to a worker. General duty applies regardless of whether there is a specific regulation in place relating to the job.

Sound safety practices – sometimes referred to as “due diligence,” this wording often appears in regulations and standards promoting the idea that whatever needs to be done to identify, minimize and/or eliminate hazards in the workplace, should be done.

Industry standards that are referenced by regulation – compliance with standards is voluntary, but there are some standards that OSHA says we must comply with.

Company policies that are developed, implemented and enforced by the employer exceed regulation and are enforceable by regulation. Now, answers to some commonly asked questions.

Does a forklift need to have a seat belt?

OSHA says: Yes. This has been an ANSI standard since 1993, although most of the major manufacturers have been outfitting their forklifts with seat belts well before it ever became standard. OSHA enforces the seat belt rule under general duty.

Do older forklifts need to be retrofitted with a seat belt if they didn’t come with one?

OSHA says: Yes, but if for some reason it is not possible, you must be able to show that you made every effort to comply with OSHA’s requirement to retrofit.

Do forklifts have to have a back-up alarm?

OSHA says: No, but if the operator’s view to the rear is obstructed, it should. For example, a forklift with an enclosed cab should have a back-up alarm because the cab itself is an obstruction to vision. In addition, if the alarm is supplied by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), you are not allowed to alter or remove it.

If the operator has obstructed vision, could the operator just honk the horn while reversing instead of having a back-up alarm?

OSHA says: No, a back-up alarm must activate automatically when the equipment is placed into reverse.

Are rear view mirrors required?

OSHA says: No. Again, if the operator’s rear vision is obstructed and a mirror would help, then one should be used. Careful here, using the fact that operators become “lazy” with mirrors because they don’t turn around and look in the direction of travel when reversing is not a valid reason for not using mirrors. Properly trained and supervised operators should not do that anyway.

Are headlights required?

OSHA says: No. Unless the forklift is used in conditions dark enough to give the operator trouble seeing and even then, increasing the local lighting may fix the problem. However, if the forklift were being used in dark conditions where there was no local/auxiliary lighting, you would have to install headlights on the machine. In addition, there are regulations that specify the amount of illumination (lighting) required in a workplace.

Is a horn required?

OSHA says: Yes. This has been an ANSI standard forever, and just in case there is any confusion, the horn has to work!

Can I use a steering wheel knob?

OSHA says: Yes you can, as long as your forklift has power steering and the knob is the type that fits in the palm of your hand and no part of it sticks out past the outer edge of the steering wheel.

Does a forklift need to have a capacity/data plate?

OSHA says: Absolutely. The operator has to be able to read the plate and accurately determine the rated load center distance and maximum rated load the machine can lift to its maximum lifting height with whatever attachment is in use at the time.

What about fire extinguishers?

OSHA says: Not required by any specific regulation, but remember company policy may exceed regulation. If you are hauling explosive material or working in highly combustible areas, a fire extinguisher is recommended, if not required.

Can I put something on the roof to keep me from getting wet in the rain?

OSHA says: Yes, as long as you don’t do anything to the overhead guard that would weaken it or prevent you from seeing through it. Drilling, welding, and/or plywood are out.


OSHA says: Modifying a forklift by altering any of its parts such that safe operation and/or capacity is affected is only acceptable when qualified people that have the written consent of the manufacturer or a professional engineer perform the work.

NOTE: Although the answers to the questions above are generally correct, an occupational safety officer may issue orders on a work site that conflict and indeed override these answers if he/she feels that an observed condition presents a particularly high risk of injury or occupational disease to any person.

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