Forklifts are capable of impressive feats the minute they roll off the assembly line. However, there are some industries where they need to do more. That’s why a wide range of attachments can expand a forklift’s capabilities and versatility. However, just as many regulations must be followed to ensure that a modified forklift remains safe.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officially categorizes all classes of forklifts as industrial trucks. These machines can do a wide variety of tasks, and those duties can be further expanded with specialized attachments.
Fork truck attachments for lifting
There are many (many, many) OSHA regulations regarding the safe operation and maintenance of industrial trucks. While many of these machines are massive, they are also delicately balanced, which is why they are so heavily regulated. Improper operation or an unbalanced load can easily upset a forklift and cause an accident and injury.
Not upsetting this delicate balance is also the goal regarding OSHA forklift attachment regulations.
Forklift attachments OSHA regulations
The primary OSHA regulation regarding forklift attachments is 1910.178(a)4. It states that “modifications and additions which affect capacity and safe operation shall not be performed by the customer or user without manufacturer’s prior written approval. Capacity, operation and maintenance instruction plates, tags or decals shall be changed accordingly.”
The forklift owner is responsible for obtaining the manufacturer’s written approval to comply with OSHA requirements. You must contact the original attachment manufacturer. A forklift dealer cannot supply approval for a forklift attachment.
To obtain a manufacturer’s written approval, you must develop guidelines establishing why you need the attachments and how they will be used. Once you show these to the manufacturer and receive their written approval, you must update the forklift’s instruction plates, tags and decals with their new weight and lifting limits. This is to stay in accordance with OSHA regulation 1910.178(a)5, which states, “If the truck is equipped with front-end attachments other than factory installed attachments, the user shall request for the truck to be marked to identify the attachments and show the approximate weight of the truck and attachment combination at maximum elevation with load laterally centered.”
Finally, after installing the attachment, you need to train all operators on the safe use of the attachments and their potential new risks. This training must include how to operate the machine at all times following OSHA regulation 1910.178(o)4, “Trucks equipped with attachments shall be operated as partially loaded trucks when not handling a load.”
Types of forklift attachments (and some potential risks associated with them)
Interested in a forklift fork hook attachment for lifting? Wondering, “How does the boom extension affect your lifting capacity?” Concerned about OSHA man basket requirements forklift specifications?
Before you can effectively use any lifting device attachment for forklift operations, it is essential to understand its benefits the potential risks associated with its misuse.
Fork extensions are a lifting attachment for forklift forks that increases their length to handle longer loads. These attachments are steel, come in varying sizes and widths and mount directly on the machine’s factory-installed forks.
The potential hazards of fork extensions include:
- Overloading: Fork extensions increase the forklift’s load capacity, but operators still need to follow the attachment’s load limit guidelines or risk instability, tipping or damage to both the forklift and the load.
- Reduced visibility: Longer forks may cause the load to obstruct the operator’s view, which increases the risk of collisions with obstacles, other equipment or personnel.
- Balance issues: Extended forks change the machine’s center of gravity, affecting the forklift’s stability. Operators must adapt their driving and lifting techniques to avoid accidents.
Side shifters and fork positioners
A side shifter attachment lets an operator move the forks laterally left and right. The benefit of this attachment is that the operator can nudge the forks into an ideal position to grab cargo without repositioning the entire forklift.
A fork positioner adjusts the distance between the forks to easily accommodate various pallet sizes. The forks can move closer together or further apart, either individually or at the same time.
The potential hazards of side shifters and fork positioners include:
- Pinch points: A side shifter’s or fork positioner’s moving parts can create possible pinch points and injure nearby personnel.
- Load stability: Laterally moving forks make it easier for cargo to shift accidentally, which can lead to uneven weight distribution and accidents.
- Misuse: Improper use of side shifters and fork positioners, such as abrupt movements or exceeding weight limits, can damage the attachment or the forklift itself.
Clamps and rotators
Clamps allow forklifts to easily handle irregularly shaped loads, such as barrels, drums and items that don’t fit on pallets. Specific examples include paper roll clamps, drum clamps, bale clamps, carton clamps and multi-pallet handlers.
Rotators let forks turn to transfer loads into other containers. Industries that commonly use this attachment include food and beverage processing, waste and recycling and agriculture.
The potential hazards of clamps and rotators include:
- Load integrity: Clamps and rotators place pressure on loads and misuse or excessive force can lead to load damage or spillage.
- Tipping: Handling unbalanced loads with clamps or rotators can increase the risk of forklift tipping. Operators must adjust accordingly.
- Accidents: Clamps and rotators alter a forklift’s profile, increasing the likelihood of collisions with racking systems, walls and other obstacles.
Buckets and platforms
A bucket attachment for forklift enables the machine to load, scoop or sweep loose debris for quick, easy clearing. There are also buckets, platforms and cages that transform forklifts into mobile elevated work platforms. These OSHA approved man baskets for forklifts can generally lift between two to four people, depending on the forklift’s capacity.
The potential hazards of buckets and platforms include:
- Load spillage: Handling loose material with a bucket increases the likelihood of a spill, which creates risks for both the forklift operator and other personnel in the vicinity.
- Limited visibility: Adding a bucket or platform can obstruct the operator’s view, requiring extra caution when maneuvering the forklift to avoid collisions.
- Falls: What goes up…, elevating personnel always introduces a fall risk, so proper fall protection measures, such as guardrails and personal protective equipment, are crucial.
Instead of lifting cargo on top of the forks, a fork hook attachment allows a forklift to carry items under the forks. Fork hook attachments secure onto the forklift’s forks using pins or locking mechanisms. This attachment is used to transport loads that might not fit on standard forks, such as containers or machinery that have eyelets, straps or other designated lifting points.
The potential hazards of fork hooks include:
- Inadequate load distribution: Incorrect positioning can result in uneven weight distribution and upset stability during lifting and transport.
- Obstructed visibility: Because the forks are raised when using the attachment, the load may hang directly in an operator’s line of vision.
- Improper attachment: If the fork hook is not secure, it may detach during lifting or transport and cause an accident.
A telescoping forklift boom attachment extends the reach of a forklift. Like fork hooks, telescoping boom attachments also use a hook to lift and transport cargo. The boom is operated hydraulically and is extended or retracted to reach heights and distances previously impossible for the machine to achieve. Telescopic booms are versatile and can be used for various applications, including construction, agriculture and warehouse material handling.
The potential hazards of telescoping booms include:
- Tip-over risk: Extending the boom to its maximum capacity can affect the forklift’s stability.
- Overloading: Operators must be very careful to stay within the boom’s weight capacity, or the structure could break.
- Visibility issues: The extended boom may obstruct the operator’s view.
Now that you better understand the OSHA forklift attachment regulations, you may have questions about other OSHA requirements, such as the 1910.178(g) category regarding the safe changing, charging and storage of forklift batteries. Texas Motive Solutions has the answers you need. We can also help with all your forklift battery or forklift battery cell replacement needs. Call us at (888) 316-2459 or fill out this form to discover how our complimentary forklift fleet performance analysis can ensure your fleet runs at its peak perfection.