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.

March 5, 2012

Mr. David C. Hamel, Director
Defense Logistics Agency Occupational
   Safety and Health
Andrew T. McNamara Complex, Suite 2639
Fort Belvoir, Virginia 22060

Dear Mr. Hamel:

Thank you for your letter dated August 31, 2011, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a clarification of OSHA's standards pertaining to powered industrial truck load backrest extensions. This constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.

Your scenario and questions are paraphrased and our responses follow.

Scenario/Background: The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has corresponded with several forklift manufacturer representatives and they have stated that the removal of a forklift backrest load extension is not a modification of the forklift. Further, the manufacturer representatives stated that no change would have to be made to the fork lift's data plate because removing the load backrest extension does not impact any of the information on the data plate of the truck.

Question #1: Is the removal of the backrest extension originally attached when the forklift was received, a modification of the forklift under 29 CFR 1910.178(a)(4)?

Reply #1: No. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.178(e)(2) requires that if a load can fall back onto the operator; the employer must equip the forklift with a vertical load backrest extension. As long as the forklift's load does not present a hazard to the operator, the forklift is not required to be equipped with a backrest extension.

Question #2: Do we need written approval from the manufacturer to remove the backrest extension?

Reply #2: No. OSHA does not consider the removal of the backrest extension a modification of the forklift.

Question #3: Do we need approval from each forklift manufacturer and for each model?

Reply #3: Please refer to the reply to Question #2.

Question #4: Is an email acceptable?

Reply #4: Please refer to the reply to Question #2.

Question #5: Do these forklifts need new capacity, operation, and maintenance instruction plates or tags that identify the change?

Reply #5: No. As we stated in our response to Question #2, OSHA does not consider the removal of the backrest extension a modification of the forklift. As such, it is not necessary to update the capacity, operation, and maintenance instruction plates, tags, or other decals.

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 www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs