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Protecting Young Workers from Forklift Hazards is Focus of NIOSH, OSHA, Wage and Hour Awareness Effort

February 12, 2004
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

Protecting young workers from the hazards of operating forklifts is the heart of a safety initiative recently launched by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration.

The agencies joined to increase awareness of the hazards associated with the operation of forklifts (OSHA Web site) and the youth employment provisions that prohibit most workers under age 18 from operating forklifts.

“We have to remind all employers of regulations that prohibit most workers under 18 from operating forklifts outside of agricultural operations,” said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. “Working with NIOSH and the Department’s Wage and Hour Division, we compiled a packet of information that we believe will help protect working teens from being seriously injured or killed.”

The packet of information includes a Safety and Health Information Bulletin issued jointly by OSHA and the Wage and Hour Division titled, “Protecting Young Workers: Prohibition Against Young Workers Operating Forklifts.” The bulletin discusses laws and standards that prohibit workers under the age of 18 from operating forklifts for non-agricultural operations, and discusses OSHA’s powered industrial truck standard. It also discusses two fatal forklift accidents last year in Georgia and Massachusetts warehouses that claimed the lives of two workers under 18.

Also included in the material is a forklift safety packet previously disseminated by NIOSH and the Wage and Hour Division that includes a one-page NIOSH Alert on forklift safety as well as specific fatality case reports. A “Forklift Stop Sticker” is added for employers to attach to equipment that will remind workers and supervisors of the age prohibition. Finally, a brochure on Labor Department’s compliance assistance resources is also provided.

“NIOSH is pleased to team with OSHA, the Wage and Hour Division, and other partners to provide essential information for preventing these tragic deaths and injuries among working youth. NIOSH’s research findings and recommendations offer practical guidance for identifying potential hazards and designing effective preventive measures,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.

Added Tammy D. McCutchen, Wage and Hour Division Administrator: “The restrictions on youth employment are designed to provide young workers with safe and positive early work experiences. Employers must understand and comply with these laws to prevent serious occupational injuries and fatalities among youth. We believe the information we’ve assembled will help do just that.”

Approximately 2,500 copies of the packet of materials have already been sent to numerous federal agencies, professional associations, and educational institutions. Additionally, a number of Alliance Program participants (OSHA Web Site) are distributing the packets. A limited number of additional copies of the packet are available through OSHA’s Publications Office by calling (202) 693-1888.

For more information about issues facing young workers please visit the NIOSH Topic Page Young Worker Safety and Health.