OSHA regulates forklift operation to prevent workplace accidents and injuries. The safety standards (1910.178¹) prescribe requirements related to fire protection, training and operating the equipment, and storing the vehicles. Read on to learn how easy-to-use tools like durable, highly visible forklift safety signs and floor tape communicate safety reminders, manage traffic, and improve operator training to keep your warehouse, factory, or distribution center a safe, accident-free environment. Then, use our Guide to OSHA-Compliant Floor Signs to make sure your markings are implemented in accordance with the necessary regulations and that they follow ANSI standards.

What Are “Forklifts,” According to OSHA?

OSHA forklift safety standards reference many types of powered industrial trucks (PITs), including tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other electric motor or internal combustion engines. PITs are generally referred to as “forklifts” because of the lifting mechanisms (forks) they use.

Though not an exhaustive list, the 7 commonly-used forklifts referenced in OSHA regulations 1910.1781 are:

  • Electric Motor Rider Trucks
  • Electric Narrow Aisle Trucks
  • Electric Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks
  • Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Ride-on PITs with solid/cushion tires)
  • Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Ride-on PITs with pneumatic tires)
  • Electric & Combustion Engine Tractors
  • Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

Visual Cues to Reinforce OSHA Forklift Safety Requirements

Improving the visual cues in your environment can help prevent common forklift incidents. Our floor signs and tape lines are highly visible tools to make training easier, manage traffic, alert operators of surface conditions, and label storage and refueling areas to keep your workplace organized and accident-free. 

Signs & Lines for Forklift Operator Training

OSHA requires that industrial truck operators receive formal safety instruction and practical training, and retraining if a near-miss or accident occurs. If you don’t have dedicated space for this, you may choose to create a temporary training area in your warehouse using removable floor marking tape. The peel-and-stick application is a quick way to draw aisles, pallet locations, and dock areas. Choose a mix of solid colors and hazard floor tape to simulate the markings in your environment. Train new hires and provide reminders of the meaning of your standard safety signs using the 5S Safety School Kit, which can stay in place in any high-traffic area to educate all employees—new and existing—to the visual cues used in your facility.

Our floor tape is removable, so you won’t permanently mark the floors yet the adhesive is designed to stay put as long as you need. This allows a trainee to continue practicing maneuvering, steering, speed control, and load balancing long after the minimal proficiency is reached. This extra training helps develop a skilled, safe operator who is ready to work in a busy industrial environment.

Organize Forklift Storage With Floor Markings

OSHA requires proper storage of industrial trucks and power sources to prevent fires and injury. Create order in these locations using our floor tape and pre-cut floor sign kits. Our 5S floor tape is available with caution stripes, color-coded lines, or repeating messages to define forklift parking, maintenance areas, and hazards, such as batteries or fuel. No food, No Smoking, or Flammable directives can be printed on the tape to prohibit items or actions to keep employees safe. Select pre-cut floor marking kits with borders to outline extinguishers and first aid equipment with bold, highly visible perimeters that stand out in emergencies.

Enforce Forklift Lockout & Tagging Procedures

Forklifts must be inspected following use to make sure they are in good working order. When an issue is identified, OSHA requires the faulty vehicle to be removed from service so repairs can be completed. Designate maintenance locations by outlining the areas in repeating message or hazard floor tape. These bold visuals notify employees that the equipment is off-limits. For electrical-powered trucks, lockout and tagging procedures (standard 1910.333²) should also be followed by the appointed personnel. Use lockout tagout floor signs to eliminate confusion about what machines to stage where and their status. 

Markers for Aisles & Passageways

Aisles and passageways in your workplace must be marked for forklifts to comply with OSHA 1910.178. Floor markings are important because they communicate where fork trucks are and aren’t allowed, and highlight edges, objects, corners, and fixtures for operators so they are easily seen and avoided. OSHA forklift safety standards state that: 

  • Where mechanical handling equipment is used, sufficient safe clearances shall be allowed for aisles, at loading docks, through doorways and wherever turns or passage must be made.
  • Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked.
  • Aisles and passageways shall be kept clear and in good repair, with no obstruction across or in aisles that could create a hazard.

Painting every aisle and dock in your warehouse to comply with these standards would be time-consuming, expensive, and require extensive downtime for curing. Before shutting down or delaying startup, consider creating your visual cues using floor tape rolls. The forklift floor markings can be completed in nearly any solid color, diagonal stripe, checkerboard pattern, or repeating message you need. The aisles can be opened to traffic immediately after installation, and you won’t need to worry about paint touch-ups or peeling.

Signs to Regulate Forklift Speeds

Posted speed limits and caution reminders can increase operators’ awareness of floor conditions and regulate traffic in your warehouse. OSHA does not define prohibited speeds, but does encourage employers to consider the type of lift truck, the manufacturer’s limitations or suggestions, the load, and environmental factors (i.e. surfaces, pedestrians) when determining safe/unsafe travel. OSHA requires that operators adhere to these regulations when traveling: 

  • Maintain a safe distance between other industrial traffic.
  • Do not pass others traveling in the same direction at intersections or dangerous areas.
  • Slow and honk horn where vision is obstructed.
  • Grades must be ascended or descended slowly.
  • The driver must slow down for wet and slippery floors.
  • Under all travel conditions the truck must operate at a speed that will permit it to be brought to a stop in a safe manner.
  • Avoid running over loose objects in the roadway.

Our floor signs are designed to withstand heavy traffic so you can place them directly in forklift paths to alert drivers of safety requirements. Our inventory of traffic floor signs provide bold visuals to direct operators to proceed slowly, stop, and watch for others to avoid collisions, spilled loads, and injuries. Or, create specific signs with load restrictions, ramp grades, or operational reminders using our custom design tool.

Continuous Improvements for Forklift Safety

Go beyond the forklift operation requirements set forth by OSHA and implement continuous improvements to strengthen safety for everyone interacting in areas with industrial equipment. Incremental changes to redirect traffic, separate workers, and increase employee communication can strengthen safety, improve efficiency, and reduce downtime caused by accidents and injuries.

Strengthen Pedestrian Safety Markings in Forklift Areas

Separate those on foot from machine traffic with signs and floor markers. While guardrails or physical barriers are recommended, installing these isn’t always feasible. But, floor signs and tape can be applied nearly anywhere to provide visual cues that protect pedestrians and prevent accidents. Use these ideas to strengthen safety for those working around forklifts:

  • Place floor signs at the aisle ends to designate each as pedestrian-only or forklift-only.
  • Redirect forklifts away from restrooms, break rooms, or office areas by creating visual barriers and lanes with floor tape.
  • Encourage better communication between workers with Stop, Look, Point and Sound Horn floor signs.
  • Separate aisles with dashed floor markers to provide forklifts adequate work area and reserve pedestrian lanes.
  • Use arrows to show entry and exit directions on docks or in aisles to streamline traffic flow.

Increase Hazard Signs for Forklift Safety 

Marking physical hazards helps forklift drivers navigate safely and prevents dangerous collisions and damage. OSHA requires forklifts to ascend and descend slowly and away from ramp edges, but highlighting these locations with caution tape or signs keeps operators aware of the risks and can prevent mistakes caused by distraction or inattention. You can also use signs to indicate uneven pavement, beams overhead, and wet or slippery surfaces so drivers can adjust to avoid tipping over or dropping a load. Outlining objects or fixtures, such as eyewash stations, pallets, or shelving with bright floor tape can make these items easier to spot and avoid.

Better Organization for Clear, Clean Aisles

An organized workplace helps keep aisles clear and free of obstructions, which is required by OSHA anywhere forklifts are present. Our 5S floor marking tape provides labeling and process reminders to keep equipment stored correctly, leaving aisles, passageways, docks, and staging areas open. Continually improve your visual organization to give everything a place, and use a red tag area for evaluation or disposal of any excess item that may lead to clutter. Having an organized warehouse gives PITs, automated devices, forklifts, and pedestrians with hand trucks the room needed to maneuver safely and efficiently. 

Safety Reminders for All Workers

General safety signs placed throughout the workplace can inspire better practices to prevent injuries and accidents. We offer signs with general messages, such as “Safety Is Practiced Here” or “Safety First” to inspire a change in poor habits. You may also consider creating signage that encourages employees to speak up if they hear of or see unsafe behaviors to proactively make changes before an accident or injury.

Our floor signs and tape give you the tools to create lasting, effective signage that meets—and exceeds—what is required by OSHA to improve forklift safety. Find more OSHA safety information and tips for industrial floor markings in our Resource Center