Loading and Unloading

Powered industrial trucks (referred to as PITs or forklifts) are used in numerous work settings, primarily to load and unload materials. Forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts and they represent about 25% of all forklift-related deaths. The case studies examined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicate that the forklift, the factory environment, and actions of the operator can all contribute to fatal incidents involving forklifts. In addition, these fatalities indicate that many employees and employers are not using or may be unaware of safety procedures and the proper use of forklifts to reduce the risk of injury and death.

For additional information on this fatality data, see Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-109, (June 2001)). The following is an overview of the regulations, training requirements, and other resources pertaining to PITs:

OSHA Compliance

The powered industrial trucks standard (29 CFR 1910.178) is the most commonly cited standard in the material-handling industries.


General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

  • 1910.176, Handling materials - general. Contains requirements for use of mechanical equipment, materials storage, load clearances, etc.
  • 1910.178, Powered industrial trucks
    • Powered Industrial Trucks. Final Rules 68:32637-32638 (June 2, 2003). States that 29 CFR 1910.178(m)(12) is unenforceable by OSHA. This technical amendment deleted a Powered Industrial Trucks Standard covering the use of powered industrial trucks to lift personnel. It was deleted because it was invalidly promulgated from a non-mandatory provision of a national consensus standard. Because it is unenforceable, OSHA removed that provision, 29 CFR 1910.178(m)(12), from the Powered Industrial Trucks Standard. Note that OSHA removed all of paragraph of (m)(12), including its subordinate paragraphs (m)(12)(i) through (m)(12)(iii). This amendment became effective July 2, 2003.

Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)

  • 1915.120, Powered industrial truck operator training

Marine Terminals (29 CFR 1917)

  • 1917.1, Scope and applicability
  • 1917.17, Railroad facilities. Paragraphs (i) and (j) state restrictions for using industrial trucks for opening railcar doors
  • 1917.24, Carbon monoxide
  • 1917.27, Personnel. Includes qualifications required for machinery operators.

Longshoring (29 CFR 1918)

  • 1918.25, Bridge plates and ramps (see also 1918.86)
  • 1918.65, Mechanically powered vehicles used aboard vessels
  • 1918.67, Notifying the ship's officers before using certain equipment
  • 1918.83, Stowed cargo; tiering and breaking down
  • 1918.85, Containerized cargo operations
  • 1918.86, Roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) operations (see also 1918.2 and 1918.25)
  • 1918.89, Handling hazardous cargo (see also 1918.2 and 1918.99)

Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)

  • 1926.602, Material handling equipment. Includes requirements for powered industrial trucks (1926.602(c))

For additional information, see OSHA Standards section, Frequently Cited OSHA Standards, and Other Federal Agency's Standards and Guidance sections of this document.

For further information on industry standards, see Consensus Standards and Recommendations from other Professional Organizations sections of this document.

Letters of Interpretation

Training Requirements

  • 29 CFR 1910.178, Powered industrial trucks. OSHA Standard. Includes specific training requirements for forklift operators who load and unload trucks.
  • Host employers may require site-specific forklift training of visiting workers. OSHA Letter of Interpretation, (October 28, 1999). Indicates that employers are entitled to require that persons who operate power pallet jacks at their worksites have a greater degree of training than is required by the regulation and that they be trained specifically in the equipment and conditions at its worksite.
  • Standup Forklift Under-ride Hazards. OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB), (July 27, 2009).

Industry Specific Hazards

  • Baggage Handling. OSHA eTool. Describes many of the common hazards associated with the baggage handling process and provides possible solutions that are ranked according to their feasibility to the operations.
Beverage Delivery
  • Construction. OSHA eTool. Contains information that helps workers identify and control the hazards that cause the most serious construction-related injuries. Also available in Spanish.
Grocery Warehousing
  • Grocery Warehousing. OSHA eTool. Provides examples of ergonomic hazards and solutions related to order picking, which accounts for a large number of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
  • Logging. OSHA eTool. Provides expert assistance for businesses and workers seeking to comply with OSHA's logging standard. Logging procedures are examined, OSHA regulations explained, and links are provided to the specific sections of the standard.
  • Shipyard Employment. OSHA eTool. Addresses the entire 1915 regulation as it pertains to ship repair which includes activities such as altering, converting, installing, cleaning, painting, and maintaining vessels.
  • Maritime Industry. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
  • Longshoring Industry. OSHA Publication 2232, (2001). Contains all the safety and health standards concerning the marine terminal and longshoring industries, as specified by 29 CFR 1917 and 29 CFR 1918), as of June 30, 2000.
  • Longshoring and Marine Terminals: Fatal Facts. OSHA. Detailed summaries, based on actual case files, address 42 fatal accidents in the marine cargo handling industry, including a review of the factors that contributed to the accident and how to avoid them.
Meat Packing
  • Poultry Processing Industry. OSHA eTool. Focuses on identifying and controlling major hazards that contributed to the high rates of injuries found in an OSHA survey of the industry. Other serious hazards are also discussed.
Oil and Well Gas Drilling and Servicing
Wood Products
  • Wood Products: Sawmills. OSHA eTool. Provides information on topics such as lumber storage, log handling, and plant-wide hazards.
  • Wood Products: Woodworking. OSHA eTool. Provides information on topics such as assembly, production, and shipping.