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In a brief posting on page 8,633 of the most recent copy of the Federal Register published last week, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration dropped what could be a bombshell for the forklift industry. For the first time in more than 20 years, the Labor Department agency is considering changes to its work rules regarding the use of forklifts.
OSHA is asking employers that use forklifts to offer comments, questions, and information about how they would like to see government forklift regulations improved or modified. The agency is not ruling out deregulation.
Different Rules for Different Lift Trucks?
According to the government’s official request for comment, one of the things OSHA is considering is creating different rules for specific types of forklifts used in various industries, including the maritime, construction, and general workplaces such as warehouses and docks.
“OSHA will use the information received in response to this RFI to determine what action, if any, it may take to reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining worker safety,” states the Federal Register posting.
Part of the reason for reviewing long-standing forklift rules may be the changing face of the forklift industry. The current rules were written in June 1971 and revised last in December 1998. But since then the types of forklifts have increased dramatically. There were only 11 different forklift types when the original standard was created. Updates added eight more.
Today, new technologies are pushing the envelope in terms of forklift power sources, lift truck design, and even what constitutes a forklift altogether. Some self-driving forklifts already are being used in some workplaces while others are expected to be introduced in the very near future.
All-terrain forklifts used in construction are vastly different than those used in the typical warehouse. And powerful lift trucks used in boatyards are even more specialized.
Training and Safety
OSHA also wants to know whether current forklift training requirements are enough or whether they are too cumbersome for employer compliance.
Federal regulators also are seeking “information regarding the types, age, and usage of powered industrial trucks, maintenance and retrofitting of powered industrial trucks, how to regulate older powered industrial trucks, the types of accidents and injuries associated with operation of powered industrial trucks, the costs and benefits of retrofitting powered industrial trucks with safety features, and the costs and benefits of all other components of a safety program, as well as various other issues.”
Any industry may submit comments electronically, by FAX, or by mail regarding government forklift regulations. Submissions must be submitted or postmarked by June 10. Information submitted will be posted publicly and available for review by any interested party.