Pre-shift inspections

OHSA states -Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service, and shall not be placed in service if the examination shows any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle. Such examination shall be made at least daily. Where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift. Defects when found shall be immediately reported and corrected.-

It is one thing to require it be done and quite another to ensure it is really happening. Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not even require they be done in writing, per a letter of interpretation from OSHA on May 9, 2000 which states -Although the standard requires that the examination be conducted, there is no OSHA requirement that the examination be recorded in writing on a checklist such as the one you provided.-

Most companies, but not all, at least make an attempt to comply with inspection requirements but here are some of the problems I see in the field:

1) Lack of a list to follow or inadequate lists which are missing important items or contain items which do not apply to the equipment.
2) Lack of time to properly complete the inspections. Operators many times are in a hurry, as are their employers, which creates an inspection that may be deficient.
3) Lack of training on how to properly inspect. Are the operators actually being trained to inspect their current makes and models? We have had supposedly well-trained people who are not able to raise the hood or find the oil dipstick, which tells us they are not doing their inspections.
4) Improper systems in place to deal with problems identified. In some cases, everything is being done right, until the point where paperwork, including issues that need attention, are forwarded on for action. If the ball is dropped here, a black hole is created and things never get fixed, which can be very damaging with OSHA or in a litigation.

How can you fix these problems?

1) Create reasonable checklists for each type of lift in your facility, using a variety of resources including operator’s manuals, OSHA guidelines, corporate materials, etc. Avoid listing items which don’t apply or those that will be checked by a vendor or in-house maintenance.
2) Allow time for operators to complete inspections and give them an approximate time frame which a correct inspection should take. Let them know that 30 second checks or 30 minute checks are not likely appropriate time frames.
3) Be sure your training includes a decent amount of detail on what to inspect, how to inspect it and what to do if there are problems.
4) Be sure that you have set the correct expectations. Expect operators to inspect your forklifts and expect your system of identifying unsafe forklifts and removing them from service be followed every time.

Written by Brian Colburn of Forklift Training Systems, a leading provider of forklift safety training and materials. Forklift Training Systems can be contacted at 614-583-5749 or at Visit them on the web at

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