This month, our fourth step on the path to safety leads us to some of the most indispensible and frequently used pieces of equipment in a warehouse or plant:  powered industrial trucks (PITs).  These same machines that are so vital to operations also cause thousands of injuries to employees and incidents of property damage.  Many employees are injured when PITs are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; employees are struck by a lift truck, or when employees fall while on elevated pallets and tines. 

Most incidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and machinery.  Unfortunately, most employee injuries and property damage can be attributed to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety-rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate training.  In an effort to combat the frequency and severity of injuries and the significant monetary losses in property damage resulting from the use of these machines, OSHA has issued extensive regulations in 29 CFR 1910.178 relating to the use of PITs.

Powered industrial trucks are defined as any mobile power-propelled truck used to carry, push, lift, stack or tier materials.  PITs can be ridden or controlled by a walking operator.  OSHA standards require that only trained and competent operators over the age of 18 may be permitted to operate a PIT.  Employers are required to develop and implement a training program based on the general principles of safe truck operation, the types of vehicle(s) being used in the workplace, the hazards of the workplace created by the use of the vehicle(s), and the general safety requirements of the OSHA standard.

Trained operators must know how to do the job properly and do it safely, as demonstrated by workplace evaluation. Formal (lecture, video, etc.) and practical (demonstration and practical exercises) training must be provided. Employers must also certify that each operator has received the training as well as evaluate each operator at least once every three years. Refresher training is required whenever an operator demonstrates a deficiency in the safe operation of the truck.

The hazards commonly associated with PITs vary depending on the vehicle type and the workplace where the truck is used.  Each type of truck and every work place’s conditions present different hazards.  OSHA has developed an excellent online e-tool which can be found  The e-tool provides information on OSHA’s PIT requirements and industry best practices addressing:

(1)the differing types and fundamentals of PITs;
(2)the basic operating rules and safe work practices;
(3)how workplace conditions can affect safe operation; and
(4)operator training required by OSHA.
This e-tool is not a substitute for a formal training program but will get users on the right path to safety.  Conscientious implementation of a compliant PIT program will lead your company on the path to an effective safety program and positively impact your productivity, the health and well-being of your employees, and a better bottom line.

This article was written in conjunction with participants in the OSHA and ASA Alliance. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the U.S. Department of Labor.

For more information on this and additional safety topics, visit and click on the Safety Resources tab.  A series of Tool Box Talks can be found there, as well as links to additional resources to assist in developing an effective safety program at your company.