Forklift Safety Lights - What Does OSHA Require?
by David Tullis, on May 3, 2021 1:58:00 PM
What forklift safety lights are required by OSHA? Just headlights and taillights? What about blue spotlights or red zone LED lights? Unfortunately, there isn't a simple answer.
OSHA's powered industrial truck standard (§1910.178) only requires two types of forklift lights:
- Brake/tail lights (if your forklift came equipped with them)
- Headlights, but only if the light in the work environment is less than 2 lumens per square foot.
The powered industrial truck standard doesn’t mention blue, red, or flashing lights; BUT, they may be required under OSHA’s General Duty Clause.
Keeping track of all the rules and regulations may seem like a hassle, but it pays to stay informed. As of January 2021, the minimum OSHA fine is $975 per violation. Here’s what operations managers and business owners need to know:
Forklift Safety Lights and OSHA Compliance
Here's a round-up of the forklift lights OSHA requires:
Forklift Headlights: OSHA regulation 1910.178(h)(2) states: when general lighting is less than 2 lumens per square foot, auxiliary light shall be provided on the truck.
Basically, any operation that uses forklifts outdoors or at night should have headlights, and indoor operations with heavy pedestrian or vehicle traffic should strongly consider adding them. Here's why:
- Headlights illuminate work areas and help forklift operators be more productive - operators who are 60+ need 3x as much light to see the same thing as a 20-year-old
- Forklift lights enhance safety by making the truck more noticeable to pedestrians - one in five (20 percent) of forklift incidents involve pedestrians.
Forklift Tail/Brake Lights: Most forklifts come with brake/tail lights. If you have a forklift that came from the factory without brake/tail lights, OSHA does not require you to pay for a retrofit. However, if the forklift operates in an area with a lot of pedestrian or vehicle traffic, you'll want to ensure your forklift has all the bells and whistles...and lights.
OSHA's standard states: where appropriate to the worksite, equip trucks with additional sound-producing or visual (such as lights or blinkers) devices.
Does OSHA Require Blue, Red or Flashing Forklift Safety Lights?
As mentioned above, blue spotlights, red side lights and flashing strobe lights are not required by OSHA’s powered industrial truck standard (§1910.178); however, OSHA’s website states:
While §1910.178 standard does not specifically require flashing lights or back-up beepers, employers have a duty under the OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. § 654 (a)(1), also known as the General Duty Clause, to furnish employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or a likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees, where employees are exposed to hazards, including but not limited to, struck by, caught-in-between and crushing by the forklift. B56.1-2009 shows that industry recognizes this hazard and that equipping trucks with sound-producing and visual devices are feasible means to abate this hazard. An employer whose workplace presents this hazard and has not taken feasible steps to mitigate this hazard may be in violation of the General Duty Clause.
As of 2021, the minimum OSHA fine is $975 per violation. Safety lights not only make your workplace safer, they are also cheap “insurance” against expensive fines.
Forklift Safety Lights Demonstrate a Commitment to Safety
How often do you see someone walking through your workplace looking at their smartphone or wearing earbuds — oblivious to what’s going on around them? Probably way too often.
You’ve sent emails and put up safety signs, but pedestrians fail to maintain a safe distance. That’s why safety and cost-conscious managers use red and blue LED safety lights to prevent collisions between pedestrians and forklifts.
A Red Zone Forklift Safety Light Establishes a No-Go Zone
Red zone safety lights project a red “no-go” area around the forklift. The illuminated area clearly shows the danger zone for pedestrians, whether the forklift is stopped or in motion. You don’t have to worry about pedestrians underestimating how much space they need to put between themselves and the lift truck. All they have to remember is: stay out of the red zone.
An LED Blue Spotlight Alerts Pedestrians to Oncoming Traffic
In a noisy environment or workplace with blind corners, a bright blue spotlight is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent forklift-pedestrian collisions. A blue LED spotlight (typically mounted on the overhead guard) projects a bright blue light 10-20 feet in front of the forklift. The light precedes the forklift into intersections, warning pedestrians of an oncoming lift truck.
Installing safety lights on your forklift costs a whole lot less than an OSHA violation, so it really pays to add both blue and red lights to your forklift.
Forklift Strobe Lights - Appropriate for Certain Applications
Strobe lights are an excellent attention-getter; however, they should not be used in applications where employees wear auto-darkening welding helmets (or similar equipment). Strobe light placement is also important. You never want strobe lights placed at eye-level because bright, flashing LED lights can severely impair someone’s vision.
Don’t Forget: Add Forklift Lights to Operators’ Pre-Inspection Checklist
When safety lights are installed on a forklift, operators must confirm the lights are working properly at the start of each shift. Don't forget to add “inspect safety lights” to your forklift pre-shift inspection checklist and train operators how to inspect and use the lights.
Commit to a Safer, More Profitable Fleet
If your operation is located in Georgia or Florida, we can help you find the best OSHA-compliant forklift safety lights for your business needs. We sell:
- Blue LED spotlights in different sizes and lumens
- LED “bullet” lights - a good alternative if you don’t have room for a conventional light
- Lights with plastic lenses (for food-processing environments)
- Forklift strobe lights in different sizes and colors
We can design a custom solution for your needs and budget. For example, some operations want their forklift lights wired up so the lights only operate when the forklift is in motion. No problem, one of our expert forklift technicians can wire it up for you.
Our goal is to help local businesses be as productive and safe as possible. That’s why we offer free facility audits. Ensure your operation is OSHA-compliant and as safe as possible. Contact a forklift safety expert online, by phone at (800) 226-2345, or in person at one of our nine locations.
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