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Forklift drivers often work in potentially dangerous conditions. There’s the risk of collision with other vehicles or obstacles, the potential for falling objects, and even the standard bumps and jostling of riding over rough surfaces to consider.
So is it actually necessary for forklift operators to wear hard hats at all times?
The answer to this question depends on a number of different factors.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the division of the US Department of Labor that is responsible for regulating workplace safety. In other words, OSHA enforces the rules that govern every workplace and worker in the US, including forklift operators.
So what does OSHA say about the use of hard hats for forklift drivers? Nothing specifically.
The OSHA standard for construction workplaces simply states that “employees working in areas where there is a possible injury from head injury from impact, or from falling objects, or from electrical shock or burns, shall be protected by protective helmets.”
That’s a blanket statement that is purposefully vague so that it can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Although it doesn’t specifically say that forklift operators need to wear hard hats at all times, it does imply that hard hats should be work whenever the listed hazards are present for workers, with the implication that forklift operators are included within this group.
Local Work Rules
While OSHA may not specifically require forklift operators to wear hard hats at all times, site-specific or company work rules might. If this is the case, then all workers, site visitors, and other people on the job site need to follow these rules at all times.
The difference between OSHA regulations and site- or company-specific rules is that violating federal safety regulations could result in fines and/or other penalties, while failing to follow local work rules could result in employee disciplinary action, up to and including termination, in most cases.
Wearing Hard Hats
Even if there are no specific work rules in place regarding the use of hard hats by forklift operators, it’s usually a good idea for operators to wear them as a precautionary measure.
Hard hats provide a safe, absorbing barrier between potential dangers and operators’ heads. In the event of a collision with an object, vehicle, or another hazard, a hard hat can help keep an operator from becoming seriously injured. It could even save their life.