The typical forklift (classified as a “Powered Industrial Truck” by OSHA), needs several points of attention. First, although OSHA does not specifically state that the operator must keep a written pre-operation inspection log, it is wise to do so. Doing so helps formalize inspections, service and repair and will demonstrate to OSHA that you are indeed inspecting your forklifts.
In brief, the forklift should have operable safety devices such as a horn, warning lights, a back-up beeper, seatbelts and a currently tagged and inspected fire extinguisher on board. Operators must use seatbelts. If the factory belt does not extend far enough to buckle in a portly operator, compliant belt extenders are available. In other words, there is no excuse of a big-around-the-middle forklift operator to not be belted in.
The lifting capacity of the forklift should be noted on the machine – information usually found on the manufacturer’s information plate or tag. But, sometimes this information is missing or illegible – tags are painted over or fall off. One easy fix is to stencil the load capacity to the mast facing the operator – so they will know that information at a glance. Don’t forget to comply with operator certification requirements found here: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/poweredindustrialtrucks/. By the way, it is against the law for anyone younger than 18 years old to operate a forklift/powered industrial truck.
Workplace accidents and fatalities have been tracked for years by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and OSHA. Both agencies offer revealing information about serious workplace accidents. The BLS in particular has detailed and broad statistics on a wide range of labor and business related topics. OSHA maintains a log of actionable workplace safety and health violations and fatalities with specific citations about particular businesses. Large and small, businesses – many of which are household names – are listed as a result of violations and/or workplace fatalities. The OSHA site in particular offers interesting and propelling reading. Visit each site to learn more.
Here is an OSHA resource for topics to incorporate into your workplace safety meetings and even assist you with developing and fine-tuning your safety procedures: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/. OSHA has listed the topics alphabetically.
According to OSHA: “OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics webpages provide information on specific safety and health hazards, as well as specific hazard information on different industries. These pages provide information on hazard identification and control, as well as existing OSHA standards where applicable. This information can be helpful to employers in complying with OSHA standards.”
This is an interesting case were water washing caused an explosion.
There was a case where a vacuum truck operator, new on the job, was tasked with washing out and vacuuming a horizontal vessel in an oil treatment plant. The vessel was about 25 feet long and situated in an open below-grade concrete vault. The plant operators had drained the vessel and opened the manways at each end. All that remained in the vessel was heavy sediments at the bottom to be removed. The vacuum truck operator began power washing the interior and bottom of the tank with a fire hose from the outside to loosen the sediments on the bottom prior to vacuuming it out. Unbeknownst to the vacuum truck operator, the sediments contained entrained oil and gas fractions – some of which were volatile. As the operator continued to hose out the interior of the vessel, his actions broke up the solids on the bottom, and they began to release volatile vapors. The vacuum truck operator was not monitoring for LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) gases. The plant operators apparently were not on scene either. Because the vacuum truck had not grounded the fire hose to the vessel, a static charge developed and the flammable gas mixture in the vessel ignited. The found the lifeless body of the operator slumped against the concrete wall of the vault opposite the manway. Evidence of a fierce flame was apparent by the charring on the wall. The contents of the vessel apparently ignited like a rocket engine and propelled the operator (with a week on the job) to his death.
As a tragic lesson learned, from then on bonding straps were then required for water washing operations. No one there had predicted that washing a vessel out with water could cause an explosion.
OSHA has proposed a revised silica regulation. Key changes include a reduction to the silica Permissive Exposure Level to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 μg/m3) as well as other engineering, administrative and PPE changes. Refer to OSHA for more information: https://www.osha.gov/silica/.
NIOSH and OSHA reference a paper published in Occupational Medicine supporting the silica causes lung cancer in humans. This supports the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 1997 classification of silica as a human carcinogen.
Contractors demolishing, repairing, installing, and maintaining concrete, brick, block or other silica containing materials may have a respirable silica exposure when these processes generate dust.
OSHA has released a new hazard alert outlining the significant silica hazards for workers involved in manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops. See the OSHA Hazard Alert for silica here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3768.pdf.