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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.
June 17, 2004
Mr. William Overby
2932 Hazel Ave.
Dayton, OH 45420
Dear Mr. Overby:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP) received your letter on May 19. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question or scenario not delineated within your original correspondence. You had concerns about 29 CFR 1910.178(p)(1) and (q)(1) and management's possible use of such regulations against one another.
Issue: The language of 29 CFR 1910.178(p)(1), requiring that "[i]f at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition," and 1910.178(q)(1), requiring that "[a]ny power-operated industrial truck not in safe operating condition shall be removed from service" are seemingly inconsistent.
Question 1: Can OSHA provide specific definitions of "in need of repair" and "defective?"
Reply: It is first necessary to note that 1910.178(p) addresses the operation of a powered industrial truck, while 1910.178(q) addresses maintenance of industrial trucks, accounting for the difference in language between the two standards. While the former focuses on conditions under which a vehicle cannot be safely operated, the latter addresses when maintenance should be performed and by whom ("authorized personnel").
Neither 29 CFR 1910.178, its source standard ANSI B56.1-1969, nor the current ASME B56.1-2000 defines any of the words for which you request clarification. However, in determining whether a truck is " . . . in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe," OSHA would take a variety of factors into consideration. These factors include, but are not limited to, the condition of the truck itself, the manufacturer's limitations on the truck, and other safety issues, such as those considerations found in consensus standards like ANSI B56.1. While specific definitions of these words are not available, in this context OSHA will consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding a powered industrial truck in determining whether it is "in need of repair" or "defective."
Question 2: What does OSHA mean when the word "unsafe" is used in the standard, and can OSHA provide examples of an unsafe condition on a powered industrial truck?
Reply: "Unsafe," as used in 1910.178(p)(1), carries the general connotation of presenting a harm or risk. As stated above, OSHA will consider a number of factors in determining whether a powered industrial truck is unsafe. For example, all gauges must be functioning properly for the truck to be considered safe. Should a gauge not be functioning properly, that truck will usually be considered defective and in need of repair, thereby making the truck unsafe. Broken welds, missing bolts, or damage to the overhead guard would indicate that a truck is unsafe. Tires that are missing large pieces of rubber would present a risk to the truck operator, thereby making the truck unsafe. Such conditions must be repaired and corrected before the truck is placed back in service. It must be noted, however, that these are simply examples of unsafe conditions on a powered industrial truck; this list is not inclusive and there are certainly other conditions that would render a truck unsafe.
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 Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs