Forcing Operators to Wear Seat Belts Is Challenging … But Necessary

Photo courtesy of Center for Sacramento History (via

Photo courtesy of Center for Sacramento History (via

One of the biggest challenges facing managers responsible for forklift operators is making sure they always wear their seat belts whenever they are in the cab of their vehicles.

Many, if not most, forklift drivers don’t want to wear their seat belts all the time, especially if they frequently have to jump on and off of their vehicle while dealing with loads.

Most managers are familiar with forklift operators who frequently “forget” to put their seat belts on. Whether they sympathize with them or simply don’t want to deal with conflict, they often look the other way when it comes to forklift seat belt rules.

But that’s a bad idea. Not only do forklift seat belt regulations save lives by protecting operators from being tossed out of their vehicles in the event of a collision, but they also protect businesses from fines, penalties and even criminal prosecution should an operator be injured or killed due to non-compliance.

What’s the Law?

It’s actually against the law to operate a forklift without a seat belt. While it’s unlikely that a forklift operator will be pulled over by local police, if an accident were to occur in which a worker is injured or killed because he or she wasn’t wearing a seat belt while operating a forklift, the business can be held liable by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Officially, the guideline regulating forklift seat belts is Powered Industrial Truck Standard 29CFR 1910.178, which reads:

“OSHA’s enforcement policy on the use of seat belts on powered industrial trucks is that employers are obligated to require operators of powered industrial trucks that are equipped with operator restraint devices, including seat belts, to use the devices. CSHOs [Compliance Safety and Health Officers] will enforce the use of such devices under Section 5(a)(1) (general duty clause) of the OSH Act.”

In practical terms, it means that managers need to enforce seat belt rules among the forklift operators under their supervision — or the business can face consequences including steep fines, damage to its public reputation, and even criminal prosecution of its officers.

‘But My Forklift Doesn’t Have a Seat Belt!’

Every forklift in use in the US since 1992 is required by law to have a seat belt. So if your’s doesn’t have one, your business is responsible for adding one.

Contact the forklift’s makers to retrofit your vehicle with a seat belt. All of the biggest forklift makers now have retrofit programs, so there are no longer any excuses for disobeying the law.


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