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When it comes to seat belts, forklift replacement seats are kind of like ice cream cones and sprinkles: Some come with them, and some don’t.
But unlike candy sprinkles, seat belts are not optional. Federal law requires that all forklifts come equipped with working seat belts and that businesses require operators to use them whenever the vehicle is in motion.
While the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration won’t usually perform surprise inspections to make sure your drivers are wearing their seat belts, if there is an accident at your business and it’s determined that the operator wasn’t wearing a seat belt — or, even worse, that the forklift didn’t have seat belts in the first place — your business could be liable for both civil and criminal punishments, including fines and even jail time.
Replacement Seats and Seat Belts
The reason some forklift replacement seats come with seat belts and while others don’t has to do with engineering. Not all manufacturers build their forklifts according to the same specifications.
Many forklift makers install seat belts on the forklift frame during assembly while others attach them to the seat itself. So if you are replacing a forklift seat with seat belts already attached, you will need to find a forklift replacement seat that includes seat belts.
The difference in cost between forklift replacement seats that include seat belts and those that don’t isn’t usually all that much money. So there’s no real cost benefit to trying to save a few bucks by buying just the seat.
In fact, given the potential liability, not to mention the risk you would be putting your operators in, spending a little more for the seat belts actually makes sound economic sense.
But what about shoulder belts? Is it worth spending more to get these as well?
The answer depends on how you plan to use your forklift. If it’s a rough terrain vehicle that will be working on inclines and other surfaces where there is a high risk of tipping, it may make sense to spend more to get the shoulder belts for the added protection they give to your operators.
But if your forklift will just be performing normal tasks in a typical warehouse, dock or manufacturing facility setting, it may not be worth spending more for shoulder belts. They aren’t actually required by OSHA rules and many drivers find them to be uncomfortable or even distracting over time.
A better investment may be getting forklift replacement seats that come with arm rests. Providing operators with a place to rest their elbows, forearms or hands while driving, twisting and turning a forklift increases driver comfort and reduces the risk of long-term injury.
Arm rests are an ergonomically beneficial feature that will often pay dividends in the future in terms of increased productivity and decreased injuries to employees. They can even result in fewer call-offs due to minor strains and muscle pulls.