Two facts about powered lift trucks have made them a priority for the Ontario Ministry of Labour: their use in thousands of workplaces and their continuing role as a significant cause of serious worker injury and death. A Ministry study, Hazards of Powered Lift Truck Operations in Ontario Workplaces 1990-1995, provides a graphic picture. Between 1990 and 1995, powered lift trucks were involved in 136 critical injuries, affecting 143 persons and resulting in 18 worker deaths. A common feature of many of these incidents was a failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.
The OHSA places a general duty on employers to "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker" and assigns more specific responsibilities for equipment maintenance, training and supervision. Requirements for powered lift trucks, although they are not mentioned specifically, can be found in the sector regulations made under the OHSA. While meeting these requirements should have prevented most, if not all, of the accidents, compliance was in fact rare. This may be the result of the difficulty that many employers find in applying general requirements of the legislation to particular situations in their workplaces. As a remedy, the Ministry therefore decided to develop guidelines that would explain how users of powered lift trucks could comply with the legislation.
In January 1997, the Guideline for the Safe Operation of Powered Lift Trucks was published. It had two parts. One part outlined the main elements to be included in an effective powered lift truck safety program; the second part described the knowledge and skills required by a worker in order to be a "competent" operator of a powered lift truck. In 1998, the Ministry released for comment a draft of a second guideline: Guideline for the Maintenance of Powered Lift Trucks. It gave employers, workers, manufacturers and maintenance contractors straightforward advice on what the Ministry expects to be done to ensure that powered lift trucks are maintained in a safe condition and in compliance with regulatory requirements. For convenience these two guidelines have been combined as the Guideline for the Safe Operation and Maintenance of Powered Lift Trucks. This Guideline replaces the Ministry's Engineering Data Sheet No. 8-07, on fork lift trucks.