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Forklift safety inspections

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

One of the most challenging issues that companies face with regards to forklift safety is of the inspection checklist. Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not require these checks to be made in writing and has stated this in a letter of interpretation which is located on their web site. Even so, from a functional and legal standpoint it is very wise to document everything in writing, including these inspections. How can you prove you really are doing them if there is nothing documented?

The following are some major problems with regards to forklift inspections:

1) Have the operators been properly trained on what to look for and do they know what to do when they find something wrong? What are your procedures for taking a forklift out of service and do you employ the same lockout/tag-out requirements as on your production machines? If not, you should. Are your supervisors enforcing the forklift inspections or are they part of the problem by putting defective lifts back into service because they are critical to production?
2) Are the inspections really being done or are they being pencil whipped by filling out the whole list in 60 seconds without even taking a decent look at the units? I have seen checklists with 75 items, which are unreasonably long and others with just five items that are too short to do the job. Be sure your checklists cover all the items for your type of lift (reach, picker, pallet jack, etc.) and that they don’t have a bunch of items which do not apply to your units or application. You can use the operator’s manual for a guide on what items to put on your internal checklist or OSHA has a list on their website.
3) Those with very large fleets that run around the clock can generate a mountain of paperwork. If you have 75 forklifts and run three shifts, seven days a week you’d better have a huge filing cabinet. An OSHA compliance officer told me that he conducted an inspection on 25 of a customer’s 80 forklifts and that 16 of the 25 he inspected failed and had to be removed from service!
4) People ask how long records have to be maintained, but as you saw in the beginning paragraph, you are not even required to document them in writing. Since most companies will be wise enough to know formal documentation is a good idea, then how long should you keep your records? The simple answer is that you need enough of a time period to prove that you are really doing them. Whether that is a month or six months, that is up to your company to decide, but keeping years of inspection records makes little sense.

The newer monitoring systems, such as the Keytroller 601, can force the inspection, record it electronically and can even lock out defective forklifts from service and email management about the defect. Those with larger fleets will want to consider looking into that technology. Give us a call if you want to learn more about the possibilities.

Brian Colburn of Forklift Training Systems, provider of forklift safety training and materials, can be reached at 614-583-5749 or