OSHA regulations and requirements for forklift backup alarm Did you know that many recorded accidents at work are caused by reversing forklifts? Reversing forklift can result to accidents such as damage to company property, to other vehicles or to materials being transported, in a more serious circumstance, severe injury or even death. As a matter of fact, almost a quarter of all reported vehicular accidents in the workplace happen while reversing. These accidents could have been prevented by taking basic precaution by installing the reverse alarm.

We all know that forklift operation brings numerous safety issues and some confusion just like this subject matter – is it allowed to remove backup alarm and is it against OSHA regulations? You may turn to get answers from different online sources, but here, we prepared this answer to make things clear and brief for you.

Let me cited relevant OSHA regulations:

OSHA Regulations Citing Requirements for Forklift Backup Alarm

The requirement for reverse alarm neither indicated in 29 CFR 1910.178 for Powered Industrial Trucks nor in 29 CFR parts 1910 for General Industry OSHA regulations.

However, the 29 CFR Part 1926.601(b)(4) of the Construction Safety and Health Regulations prohibits employer from using motor vehicle equipment when its operator has obstructed view to the rear unless either the equipment has a back up alarm audible enough to be heard by other workers or accompanied by a signal man giving gestures that it is safe backing up. The second regulation of the same standard 29 CFR Part 1926.602(a)(9) says that all bidirectional equipments (that includes forklifts) shall be equipped with horns, and it shall be used when necessary, when the equipment is moving forward or reversing.

In addition to the above, requirement for safety devices such as reverse alarm was included in 29 CFR 1917.43(c)(5) and 29 CFR 1918.65(f) OSHA Maritime regulations. These two regulations don’t allow removal of reverse alarm or make it out of use. Therefore, when forklift manufacturer originally fitted the truck with backup alarm, it should not be removed or made inoperative by unplugging it.

29 CFR 1910.178(q)(6) clearly says that forklifts should not be modified by fitting it with parts not specified by the manufacturer or by removing parts that were originally equipped it with which includes reverse alarm.

ANSI/ITSDF B56.1-2005

You can also find the same requirement in the ANSI/ITSDF B56.1-2005 Safety Standard for Low Lift and High Forklifts which says that:

4.15.1 – every powered industrial truck should be fitted with a horn, whistle, or any devices that produce sound that can alert other workers. It should be perceptible to be heard from the ambient sound of the work site.

4.15.2 The employer shall find out if the workplace where the forklift is being operated requires the forklift to be fitted with supplementary sound-producing or visual devices, and be in charge in the provision and maintenance of such safety devices.

Removing Backup Alarms Originally Fitted by Manufacturer is Not Allowed

Could you just simply unplug it? The answer is NO!

The backup alarm of the forklift should always be connected and keep it in operable condition at all times.

OSHA did not specifically use the word backup alarm or reverse but safety devices instead as mentioned in the above-mentioned OSHA regulations, these safety devices are necessary and required.

If you would like to have forklifts that comply with OSHA standard, having reverse alarm would be a big factor. As a matter of fact, it could also be a big advantage as far as insurance evaluation is concerned.

States That Have Similar Requirements

  • Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, 16VAC25-97-10 - 30 states that employer should allow their workers to operate vehicle in reverse unless the vehicle is equipped with reverse alarm capable of being heard above the surrounding noise of the place where the vehicle is being driven.

  • Washington State Legislature WAC 296-863-20010 states that when powered industrial trucks are modified, the employer must have written authorization from the manufacturer before making modification to the fit such as removing or altering parts.

  • Oregon’s OAR 437-002-0227(5)(c) regulation says that vehicles with obstructed rear view must be fixed with reverse alarm, its sound should be heard over the surrounding noises created by other vehicles and workers in the workplace. If the backup alarm wasn’t loud enough to get noticed or if there are other many equipments using alarms in the same location making it impossible to distinguish vehicles, fitting the vehicle with of flashing or strobe light can be done.

If Reverse Alarm Become Useless, What Else You Can Do?

If the sound level of the workplace where the forklift is operated is too loud that it is impossible to hear the alarm or if the forklift is operated in a very confined work space, reverse alarm may become useless.

If one of these is the situation, you can implement other safety measures such asking you’re the supervisor to assign a spotter to give signal to forklift operator or placing passageway that restrains other vehicles or workers from entering.

Concluding This

In a workplace where there are many powered industrial trucks working simultaneously, accidents inevitably happen.

Did you know you can protect your forklift operators from an accident by equipping your forklifts with the reverse alarms. You can also educate your workers to honk the vehicle’s worn when backing that would make it more audible enough to be heard by other drivers or pedestrians. Reverse alarms are installed on the forklift to give signal to approaching workers to be aware of that the forklift is being operated in the same location where they are.


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