• Information Date
  • Presented To
    National Forklift Safety Day
  • Speaker(s)
    Loren Sweatt

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery By
Loren Sweatt
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health

National Forklift Safety Day
June 11, 2019


Good morning. It is good to be with you today for the sixth annual National Forklift Safety Day. Thank you to ITA for hosting this important event, and for all of your work with OSHA through our alliance.

I want to acknowledge the other speakers for their commitment to keeping workers safe, and for taking the time to be here to discuss forklift safety. And a special thank you to Don Buckman, who as the National Forklift Safety Day Chair, helped make this event possible.

Your attendance today illustrates your commitment to worker safety, and helping to prevent forklift injuries. I want to recognize the effort you are making to travel and participate in this event.  

ITA has been instrumental in educating OSHA’s inspectors on forklift safety.  Almost 800 OSHA, State, and consultation staff have benefited from this opportunity.  This goes a long way in ensuring the agency’s inspection and compliance assistance personnel know the most up to date technological information. 

In six years of gathering for Forklift Safety Day, we have been able to raise awareness, discuss issues, and share best practices in keeping workers safe on and around forklifts. However, too many workers continue to be injured or killed in forklift incidents each year.

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 54 forklift-related fatalities in 2017. While this is a 25% decrease from 2016, the number of workers seriously injured increased by 13% to more than 7,700 workers.

That is 21 workers injured in forklift incidents every day! These numbers represent real people whose lives are disrupted, or worse, by a preventable forklift incident.

OSHA is using all of its resources –both enforcement and compliance assistance – to help address this problem.

In Fiscal Year 2018, the powered industrial truck standard was the seventh most frequently cited OSHA standard with 2,235 citations. Four of the five most frequently-cited sections of the standard concern operator training.

Forklift incidents can be prevented with training and education. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that workers receive the training and tools they need to recognize and address hazards, and operate forklifts safely.

OSHA will continue to fully and fairly enforce the forklift standard. The agency is also continuing to develop resources to help employers better understand how to best keep workers safe.

QuickCard

In April, OSHA revised the Forklift Safety QuickCard. The card highlights best practices proven to prevent injuries, such as ensuring that operators are trained on the types of trucks used and workplace-related conditions, wearing a seatbelt, never exceeding the rated load, and ensuring the load is balanced.

The revised QuickCard is available to download from the OSHA website. OSHA also has a variety of other resources available to identify hazards associated with powered industrial trucks, including the Public Warehousing and Storage course offered through the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers.  A majority of these resources are free.

Regulatory Agenda

Last year, I mentioned that OSHA would be issuing a request for information on the powered industrial trucks standards. The RFI was issued in March, and the deadline for comments closed yesterday. The agency will use the information received to determine what action, if any, to take.

I understand that ITA submitted comments, and others in the room may have submitted additional comments. Your input is important. Your expertise informs the regulatory process, especially as the current standard is about 50 years out of date.  

Compliance

Everything OSHA does is about ensuring employers work to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. Prevention saves lives, eliminates injuries, and even helps businesses save money. That’s why prevention has to be everyone’s goal.

There are many senior executives from the forklift manufacturing industry in attendance here today. It’s very encouraging to see that worker safety is a priority for you and your organizations. It matters when the message that safety is a priority comes from the top.

Worker involvement is also very important. Workers are usually in the best position to notice hazards when they first appear. Having workers heavily involved in your company’s safety and health program helps to address hazards quickly, and hopefully before anyone gets hurt.

OSHA understands that working with stakeholders is the best way to achieve the mission. The agency’s Cooperative Programs are excellent ways for employers, workers, and associations to join with OSHA on meaningful safety and health initiatives.

The On-Site Consultation Program works with small employers to identify hazards and help comply with OSHA regulations. It is important to note this service has a firewall between the enforcement-side of the agency.

The Voluntary Protection Program is another valuable asset for employers. VPP sites undergo intensive safety audits of a company’s safety and health program. It is a collaboration between management, workers, and labor where there is representation. VPP participants maintaining injury and illness rates well below industry average, among other requirements, are exempt from programmed inspections. 

I encourage everyone here to consider applying for VPP, or requesting a free on-site consultation.

As an alliance partner, ITA has participated in OSHA’s Safe + Sound Campaign. This program encourages employers to implement an effective safety and health program. Safe + Sound Week 2019 is scheduled for August 12-18. I encourage everyone here to participate this year. Events and activities leading up to the week can be found on the OSHA website and in QuickTakes.

If you are not on the QuickTakes mailing list, you should consider it.  Again, you can find the sign up on the OSHA website. This free newsletter goes out to more than 255,000 subscribers and provides timely information about agency actions, events, training, and enforcement actions.

Suicide Prevention

Finally, I’d like to briefly discuss the issue of suicide prevention. Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, workplaces, and communities.

The agency is looking at ways to work with our federal agency partners and stakeholders to help shed light on this problem, and find ways to help prevent these terrible incidents from happening.  OSHA has created a new webpage with resources to help employers and workers identify the warning signs, and know who and how to call for help.

Please take a look at the resources and share them within your organizations.

Conclusion

Thank you again for inviting me to be here with you today for National Forklift Safety Day.

Gathering for an event like this is a great way to highlight an issue, but it’s important to remember that safety doesn’t start with a single event, and it certainly cannot stop when we leave here today.

It is important to remain vigilant about worker safety at all times – beyond today and this week. Safety must start on day one and be a continuous process. 

It starts with a first step – whether that is a safety meeting, improvements in safety and health programs, or participation in a campaign. 

It then must continue by constantly looking for ways each and every day to make your workplace safer.  OSHA is here to help you do just that.

Together we can make a difference, prevent injuries, and save lives. Let’s do all that we can to send every worker home safe and healthy each and every day. 

Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions.