As outlined in Section 2 of this Guideline, the Occupational Health and Safety Act OHSA and Regulation 851 establish legal requirements for the periodic examination of powered lift trucks to confirm their safety and load-handling capability. It is the responsibility of the employer, as owner of the equipment, to ensure that such examinations are carried out. The way to fulfill this responsibility is to establish procedures for the regular inspection and repair of lift trucks at the workplace. These procedures can then be incorporated into the powered-lift-truck safety program referred to in Section 3. Items that should be considered to ensure compliance with the law are discussed below.
There are no detailed legal requirements for general safety and maintenance of powered lift trucks. Clause 25(1)(b) of the OHSA is a very general requirement for employers to ensure that any equipment is maintained in good condition. Clause 51(1)(a) of Regulation 851 requires a lifting device to be constructed and equipped in a way to adequately ensure the safety of all workers. These provisions should be interpreted as requiring the regular inspection and maintenance of powered lift trucks to ensure their safety. The regular inspection should cover the points listed in Appendix IV.
Clause 51(1)(b) of Regulation 851 requires a lifting device to be thoroughly examined by a competent person, before it is used "for the first time" and at least annually, to determine if it is capable of handling its maximum rated load. "For the first time" should be interpreted as "for the first time by the employer". This means that even new equipment must be examined to establish that its lifting capacity is as specified. The rationale is that a dealer can make modifications to the equipment and potentially render the manufacturer's specifications invalid. Verification of the load rating is even more necessary when second-hand vehicles are purchased. In either case, while it may seem to be the responsibility of the seller to have the examination done (just as used automobiles must be certified before sale), the law does, in fact, place this duty squarely on the employer. The employer could meet this duty, however, by only purchasing equipment from a supplier who can ensure that it has met the requirements of the regulation, i.e., it has been examined in accordance with clause 51(1)(b).
The situation is different when a lift truck is leased (or rented) rather than purchased. In such cases, subsection 31(1) of the OHSA clearly states that it is the supplier who must ensure that the lift truck complies with regulations. An employer who is leasing a lift truck should therefore get written verification of such compliance from the supplier. However, unless the leasing (or rental) agreement specifies otherwise, the user of the leased (or rented) equipment will be responsible for the ongoing general maintenance of the equipment.
The examination to determine lifting capacity [clause 51(1)(b)] is to be carried out by a "competent person". To be competent, this person must be able to ensure that a powered lift truck is capable of lifting its maximum rated load. The training and experience required to be considered a competent person for the purpose of clause 51(1)(b) is outlined in Section 4 of this Guideline.
Clause 51(1)(b) of Regulation 851 requires the load-handling capability to be assessed, after the initial examination, "as often as necessary but not less frequently than recommended by the manufacturer and in any case at least once a year". In general, this requirement would be met with examinations carried out after every 2000 hours of use. This assumes 12 months operation on single shifts. If a vehicle were used more frequently, for example on double shifts, a corresponding increase of the inspection frequency should be considered. But even if a truck were used only a few hours per week, the regulation still requires an annual clause 51(1)(b) examination. Other factors that may lead to more frequent examinations include severe environmental conditions (e.g., hot or corrosive environments) and the type of loads being handled. Also, any modification that could affect a truck's load-handling characteristics must be followed by a clause 51(1)(b) examination. Neither the OHSA [clause 25(1)(b)] nor Regulation 851 [clause 51(1)(a)] say how often a general safety inspection should be carried out. It would be reasonable, however, for such an inspection to be part of the annual examination required by clause 51(1)(b).
Clause 51(1)(b) of Regulation 851 requires a "permanent record" of the load-handling capacity examination to be kept. "Permanent record" has a very specific meaning under Regulation 851. Section 6 says such a record must be kept for at least one year or such longer period to ensure that at least the two most recent reports or records are kept. This means that if annual examinations were being made, the records would have to be kept for two years. It does not prevent records from being kept for longer periods of time, like the working life-time of the vehicle as would usually be the case.
As outlined in Section 2 of this Guideline, the OHSA and Regulation 851 establish a legal requirement for the periodic examination of powered lift trucks to confirm their safety and load-handling capability. It is the responsibility of the employer, as owner of the equipment, to ensure that such examinations are carried out. However, while some employers have the capacity to do the examinations and resulting maintenance work in-house, many will have to use an external maintenance contractor. It is therefore important for both employers and maintenance contractors to have a clear understanding of their respective roles. Their duties are summarized below.
For every powered lift truck in the workplace, the employer shall establish procedures to meet the requirements of clause 25(1)(b) of the OHSA and subsection 51(1) of Regulation 851. These procedures must include a periodic inspection to determine the safety of the equipment [clause 51(1)(a)] and its capability of handling its maximum rated load [clause 51(1)(b)]. All examinations are to be carried out by persons qualified as competent, who should have the qualifications outlined in Section 4 of this Guideline. The employer should ensure that the examinations are performed in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications for the safe operation of the vehicle and, in any case, that they cover all the items in the Appendix IV checklists.
Clause 51(1)(c) of Regulation 851 requires a powered lift truck to be plainly marked with information that will allow the operator to determine its maximum rated load (see Appendix I). The load rating must take into account any modification made to the equipment. An employer may ask a maintenance contractor to obtain this information (usually from the manufacturer) and display it on the truck, but that does not alter the fact that ensuring the information is in place is the employer's responsibility.
Regulation 851 requires the employer to keep a permanent record of the clause 51(1)(b) examination. The record must indicate whether the truck being examined can handle its maximum rated load and be signed by the competent person who makes that determination. The regulation does not specify what else should be in the record, but the Ministry suggests that it should:
Maintenance contractors are not mentioned in the OHSA or Regulation 851 and therefore do not have direct responsibility for work they do on powered lift trucks under this legislation. They are accountable, however, to the employer who contracts for their services. And employers, in turn, do have duties to ensure that the work is performed to a certain standard, namely, a standard that will meet the requirements of the legislation. This Guideline establishes a standard, both for what should be covered in the examination of a powered lift truck and the competency of the person doing the examination.
It is important to note that, while an employer may hire someone to do work necessary to meet the legal requirements for safe equipment, the responsibility for ensuring that such work is done properly, i.e., that the equipment is in fact safe, cannot be contracted out. In terms of powered lift trucks, this means that the maintenance contractor who examines a vehicle and does whatever work is necessary to make it safe cannot be held accountable under the legislation for its safety. All the contractor can do is attest to the condition of the equipment (safe or unsafe) at the time of its examination; this information should be provided as part of the contractor's signed report (see above). An employer's responsibilities under the OHSA or its regulations cannot be passed on to the maintenance contractor.