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 13, 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 11. 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 specific concerns about 29 CFR 1910.178(p)(1) and certain terms used in the standard.

Background: 29 CFR 1910.178(p)(1) requires 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."

Question 1: Can OSHA provide specific definitions for the terms "unsafe," "defective," and "in need of repair?"

Reply: Please refer to the enclosed June 17, 2004 letter to you in regards to these terms.

Question 2: Are there items other than steering, brakes, horn, and hoist that must be repaired on an immediate basis?

Reply: Yes. 1910.178(q)(7) prohibits the placement of an industrial truck into service if there is "any condition that adversely affects the safety of the vehicle. Similarly, 1910.178(p)(1) requires that a truck be taken out of service if, during operation, it is "found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe..."

Question 3: What if an employer says that a truck cannot be immediately repaired because it is needed as a backup?

Reply: An employer who does not comply with 1910.178(p)(1) or 1910.178 (q)(7) could be cited by OSHA. Under the OSH Act, a legal defense of "impossibility of compliance" can sometimes be established by an employer. Whether the defense applies in any particular situation will depend on the specific circumstances that are present.

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