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The backrest extension is a subject of much confusion even among tenured forklift operators. Detractors are quick to point out that while it is recognized as a device that offers significant safety benefits, it can also be a bit of a hindrance when it comes to visibility. For this reason, there is often the temptation to remove the backrest extension altogether. In this post, we cover the basic purpose of the backrest extension, and review whether or not it is kosher to remove it.
What does the backrest extension do?
The backrest extension performs the useful function of keeping large loads stable. It attaches to the front and makes it so that loads stay in place and don’t fall forward toward the operator. It can either be bolted on or slid on when attaching it to the forklift. The load thus rests against a stable, flat surface and makes loading and unloading simple and efficient. With a backrest extension, you not only protect the load you are transporting but also improve your own personal safety.
Is it okay to remove the backrest extension?
The OHSA guidelines (1910.178(m)(10)) state that “A load backrest extension shall be used whenever necessary to minimize the possibility of the load or part of it from falling forward.” This language does leave room for removing the backrest extension, and there are scenarios where this is appropriate. The bottom line is that the instrument should be used whenever you are carrying a load that is hazardous and can pose a threat to your own safety. At the same time, be mindful of the fact that the backrest extension can hinder your vision, and when this happens it may be wise to remove it (if the load is not dangerous.) When conducting your daily safety checklist, the onus is on the operator to weigh stability versus visibility and determine whether the backrest extension is appropriate. Pay attention to your forklift data plate when determining how much your forklift can carry, and make sure that you do not exceed the weight requirements for your floor. Another helpful tip is to purchase backrests that are taller than you think you will need, as this will improve visibility. Finally, whenever possible, try and shrink wrap or bend the loads so that they will be more compact and less harmful to visibility.
As you can see, the load backrest extension performs a useful function but can be a hindrance depending on the load. For the most part, however, load backrest extensions should be utilized whenever possible. Before transporting a load, it is incumbent on the forklift operator to determine when and where load backrest extensions should be deployed.