Contractor Safety Share

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Ensure Overhead Clearances When Operating Powered Industrial Vehicle

Ensure Overhead Clearances When Operating Powered Industrial Vehicles


A contractor working inside a customer’s building required a forklift to move materials through the building.  Upon gaining permission to use the customer’s forklift, one equipped with a strobe light mounted on the top of the roll cage was selected.  The contractor did not notice the light during the inspection of the forklift and was not instructed on its presence or purpose.


After unloading materials for the job, the contractor backed the forklift up in an aisle where a low unprotected steam condensate gauge was located.  The contractor identified that the forklift’s roll cage would clear the gauge.  However, when the contractor pulled forward the strobe light made contact with the steam condensate gauge causing the pipe to break, releasing condensate water.  The contractor was not injured and the pipe and gauge were replaced in a higher position to provide more clearance.


Further incident investigation revealed the following details:

·               The contractor received forklift training three years ago and has not been re-evaluated since.

·              The training given to the contract firm’s forklift operators was minimal to meet OSHA’s requirements.  Instruction on the specific forklift involved in the incident could not be verified. 

·               Contractors were not notified that the strobe light was added to the forklift; therefore they had not re-trained their operators on this modification to the forklift.

·               The contractor did not perform an adequate inspection of the forklift before operating it or of the work area to recognize the piping that was lower than the clearance height of the forklift.  
There was no signage on the forklift to indicate how to turn on the strobe light and when it was required.

Factors to consider at your site and/or project include, but not limited to the following:

  • Ensure each operator measures the total height of the forklift and the height of the lowest overhead obstacle in the area to ensure that there is adequate clearance to safely operate.
  • Ensure that a communication process is in place to notify all authorized forklift operators and their supervision of any modification made to a forklift they may use.
  • Ensure that forklift operators have received training and/or re-evaluation on the specific forklift, including any modifications, before approving their use of the unit.
  • Ensure signage is provided in areas where forklifts should be restricted or to inform a driver of the obstructions that are below the clearance height of the forklift.
    Ensure that a minimal clearance height (i.e. the height of the doors that would be used to access an area) is established for the installation of piping and other equipment in aisles and other areas where forklifts are operated.
Consider this example as you complete today’s work activities.

Safety Flash Action Items:
  • Date Contractor Safety Flash posted for all employees to review: _______________
  • Safety Talk meeting date: _______________
  • Full employee attendance and participation at safety meeting to review this incident (documentation required).
  • Employees understand urgency in protecting themselves and others.
  • Supervisors and Employees are clear which items shared in this Safety Flash are mandatory.
  • Employees/Supervisors will focus on recommended actions during future work activities of a similar nature.
Contract Firm Management Rep Signature____________________

THINK about the hazards associated with your particular work, and the steps that can be taken to increase safety on your job.


If you have questions about this CONTRACTOR SAFETY FLASH, please contact

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