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 http://www.osha.gov.

November 2, 1999

Howard Edwards
Industrial Hygiene Supervisor
Parts & Service Support Center
Caterpillar, Inc.
500 N. Morton Avenue
Morton, Il 61550-0474

Thank you for your August 27, 1999 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Regional Administrator in Chicago. Your letter has been referred to the Directorate of Compliance Programs for an answer to your question regarding work practices commonly known as "split-forking" and "bulldozing." You question whether such practices are in compliance with 29 CFR §1910.178(o)(1) of OSHA's powered industrial truck standard when used in a large parts warehouse and distribution center.

You explain that "split-forking" is when the operator moves two palletized loads by inserting one fork in each pallet. On trucks with hydraulically adjustable forks, the operator may then bring the forks as close to each other as possible, clamping the pallets together, prior to lifting and transporting the palletized loads. Alternatively, with hydraulically adjustable forks or not, the operator may just push the split-forked pallets across the floor.

When bulldozing, the operator would have one pallet on the forks, then use that load to push other pallets out ahead of the truck. Bulldozing may involve having two pallets arranged vertically on the forks (provided the height is not so tall as to obstruct vision), plus pushing up to six pallets (single or double stacked) out in front of the truck.

You specifically ask two questions:

Q. #1. Does OSHA consider these practices [to] violate §1910.178(o)(1), which states only stable or safely arranged loads shall be handled?

Response: Certainly, if the loads that are being split-forked or bulldozed result in a hazardous condition because they are not stable or safely arranged, there would be a violation of §1910.178(o)(1). Conversely, if these work practices are done safely, there would be no violation.

These two work practices, however, are potentially hazardous for the forklift drivers and for any pedestrians who may be in the area. The forklifts also are probably not designed to be used to lift and move loads in the split-forking or bulldozing manner you described. In addition, §1910.178(l)(3)(i)(M) requires that employees receive training on any operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operator's manual. If the truck's manual has warnings against these types of practices then this must be included in the training program content.

Loads that are lifted and/or pushed by split-forking or bulldozing can cause hazards in several ways, including: (1) compromising the forklift's capacity; (2) damaging the forks; (3) damaging the floor; (4) causing the load, or part of the load, to tip; (5) interfering with the maneuverability of the forklift; and (6) causing the driver less control of the loads during turns and stopping. As applied to a particular workplace, these practices may produce additional hazards, depending upon the specific workplace conditions such as: weather, lighting, space restraints, training, supervision, truck maintenance, and the job production schedule.

Q. #2. If not, would OSHA consider these practices to violate Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act? In other words, would OSHA issue a citation for violating Section 5(a)(1) to an employer for permitting these practices?

Response: Although OSHA does not have any specific regulations addressing these work practices, §1910.178 would probably apply. Certainly if the load was unstable or not safely arranged there would be a violation of 1910.178 (o)(1).

An employer has general responsibilities, delineated under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, to furnish to each employee a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA can use the General Duty Clause only if an OSHA standard does not apply.

Depending upon the facts of a particular workplace, there may be situations in which §1910.178 would not apply, and it would be appropriate to issue a citation based on the General Duty Clause. Attached are pages III-8 to 13 (paragraph C.2.c.) of the Field Inspection Reference Manual (FIRM), OSHA Instruction CPL 2.103, which discusses what is needed in order to issue a citation based on the General Duty Clause.

Frequently when the workers are on incentive pay, shortcuts will be used to get the work done faster. Faster does not necessarily mean unsafe, but there is generally a high correlation between speed and injuries. Just because a work practice is common in an industry, does not mean that the practice is safe and should be used.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance at (202) 693-1850.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs