OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

September 30, 1999

Mr. Richard C. Avery
Safety Engineering Services
2304 22nd Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713

Subject:     1926.451(c)(2)(iv) and (v), 1926.451(f)(5), 1926.451(f)(7), 1926.452(w)(4), 1926.602(c)(viii)(A) to (C), forklifts, powered industrial trucks

Dear Mr. Avery:

This responds to your April 15, 1998, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in which you ask several questions regarding the use of forklifts (powered industrial trucks) and rough-terrain forklifts (Lull, Pettibone, etc.) to elevate personnel.

Question (1): If a powered industrial truck operator's manual specifically states that it is not to be used for elevating personnel platforms, may the truck nonetheless be used for that purpose? If so, which standards would govern such use?

Answer: OSHA's scaffold standard, §1926.451(c) (2)(iv), specifically requires that front-end loaders and "similar pieces of equipment" not be used to support scaffold platforms unless specifically designed by the manufacturer for such use. In the preamble to that standard, OSHA stated that:

OSHA notes that the commenters are in general agreement that all equipment not specifically designed to support scaffold platforms must not be used...


*      *     *


All supported scaffolds, including those supported by forklifts, front-end loaders and similar pieces of equipment, must comply with the applicable requirements of §1926.451 for ... use.

(This portion of the preamble is published in Volume 61 of the Federal Register on page 46,044).

Powered industrial trucks, which include forklifts, as well as rough terrain forklifts, are "similar pieces of equipment" to forklifts and front end loaders in this context. Therefore, they fall within the requirements of §1926.451(c)(2)(iv).

If the manufacturer's operator manual states that it is not to be used for elevating personnel platforms, use of the equipment to support such a platform would violate this provision. Consequently, OSHA prohibits the use of such equipment to elevate personnel.

Question (2): If the operator's manual is silent on whether the equipment may be used to elevate personnel, may an employer assume that it may be used for that purpose?

Answer: No. If the owner's manual for the equipment is silent in this regard, the employer must determine if the front end loader was designed for such purposes. The standard places the obligation on the employer to ensure that this type of equipment is used to elevate personnel only where the manufacturer has designed it to do so. The employer would have to either find out from the manufacturer that it was designed for this use or (where that information is unavailable) obtain a certification by a certified professional engineer that the equipment was so designed.

Question (3): Is there a standard that requires employees to be able to shut off the truck's power when on platforms elevated by forklifts?

Answer: Yes. The Material Handling Equipment standard, section 1926.602(c)(1)(vi), requires that the design of all industrial trucks used by an employer meet the requirements in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B56.1-1969, Safety Standards for Powered Industrial Trucks. ANSI B56.1, paragraph 416, requires "order picker truck [s], high lift" to have travel and power controls at the platform level (see attached ANSI diagram of this type of truck). Whenever a forklift is used to elevate a platform and is used in a manner that makes it the equivalent of a high lift order picker truck, the controls specified in this ANSI provision must be in place.

Question (4): You mention that the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) B56.6-1992, Safety Standard for Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks, contains provisions (section 5.15 and 8.25) for controls located at the elevated platform level. Under B56.6-1992, rough terrain forklift trucks may only be used as an elevated work platform if there are no other "practical options" available. You ask us to explain the kind of efforts an employer must make before concluding that there are no other practical options.

Answer: Our standard incorporates the ANSI B56.1 - 1969 standard, not the ASME B56.6-1992 standard that you reference. Before using a rough terrain forklift truck as a work platform, the employer would normally have to consider the feasibility of equipment such as scaffolds, scissor lifts, aerial lifts and ladders. Only after determining that alternatives such as these were infeasible would the use of the forklift be permitted.

The kinds of efforts required of a contractor to determine that there are no other practical options would be those necessary to make an informed judgment about whether equipment such as scaffolds, scissor lifts, aerial lifts and ladders could be used.

Question (5): How can an employer determine if an operator is qualified?

Answer: OSHA has recently issued a new rule (29 CFR §1910.178(l) , which applies to construction through §1926.602(d)) on training requirements for powered industrial truck operators. This new rule, which took effect March 1, 1999, was published in Volume 63 of the Federal Register on page 66,238 (we have attached a copy to this letter). It is also available on OSHA's Internet web page at http://www.osha.gov/.

One of the requirements of this new rule, §1910.178(l)(1)(i), is that an employer must ensure that the operator "is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in this [rule]." One of the requirements in section 1910.178(l)(2)(ii) provides that there be an "evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace."

In the required training program operators must receive training in specified topics. All topics must be covered except those which the employer can demonstrate are not applicable to the safe operation of the truck in its workplace. The specified topics include:

(a) operating instructions, warning and precautions for the types of truck the operator will authorized to operate; (b) differences between the truck and automobile; (c) location of truck controls and instrumentation; (d) engine or motor operation; (e) steering and maneuvering; (f) visibility; (g) fork and attachment adaption, operation and use limitations; (h) vehicle capacity and stability; (i) vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform; refueling and/ or recharging of batteries; (k) operating limitations; and (l) any other operating instructions listed in the operators manual.

Also, training must be provided in the following workplace-related training topics:

(a) surface conditions including ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect stability; (b) compositions of loads to be carried and load stability; (c) load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking; (d) pedestrian traffic in areas of operation; (e) narrow aisles and other restricted or hazardous places of operation; (f) closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust; and (g) any other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by writing to: OSHA - Directorate of Construction, Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, Rm. N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction