Can forklift operators with hearing and vision impairment be allowed to workI have seen a lot of people asking this very common question. I also wonder if an operator has been suffering from vision or hearing loss can he be certified to drive forklifts. Now, to answer this question, let us refer to the OSHA legislation and ADA law. Both of these laws has been agued upon regarding if someone can be permitted or not, and we will discuss those applicable provisions to shed some light on this matter.

Employer has the responsibility to test not only the qualifications of their operators but also their state of physical fitness. It is their utmost concern to have their workers tested periodically to address safety and security issues at the workplace. The employer’s role is difficult, they must balance between their compliance with ADA law by not discriminating individual suffering from this and OSHA rule by providing a safe working environment for all of their personnel.

Let us confer about those related laws:

What Has Stipulated in ADA Act About Vision and Hearing Impaired Forklift Operators

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) implements the provisions of the ADA Act. The ADA law safeguards the workers from untoward discrimination. Discrimination is real threat for experienced individual with such impairments, hence, the creation of the ADA Act.

The most important element of the law is for employer to make an equitable accommodation for employees with such vision or hearing impairments. The employer could give the employee with poor eyesight to a well lighted workplace where they can clearly see or worker with hearing loss (deaf) to work environment where there less people around.

The employer could feel cause for concern by assigning those individuals inside the warehouse where is full swing of operation, or in confined and tight spaces that could cause near misses, or in places where there are high pedestrian traffic.

If operator has been examined to have such physical limitation, the employer can assess the disability and determine what accommodation can be given in favor of the worker. To satisfy OSHA and ADA laws, employer could assign them to outdoor forklift jobs where there are bigger open spaces and fewer workers around.

Other states in the US may have their own laws against discrimination to protect such workers in addition to ADA Act.

OSHA Did Not Address Vision and Hearing Impairments In Their Regulation

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not specifically talk about vision or hearing impaired forklift operators nor prohibits such individuals from taking the forklift certification course, there are, however, several safety concerns that needs to be tackled, and this is where OSHA are most apprehensive about.

Since the latest OSHA 1910.178 standard does not have a provision requiring employers to have their workers tested for such impairments, the employer however, has the obligation to check the employees regularly to ensure that they are physically capable.

OSHA has pointed out the ANSI standard B56.1, paragraph 4.18, requiring employers to ensure that forklift drivers are qualified to be fit as to the visual and auditory ability to operate the forklifts safely.

If in such cases where forklift operators found to be unfit to operate forklifts due to vision or hearing loss and they are working in tight and high traffic environment where people are moving in and out and when employer has found potential cause for concerns, operators could be assigned outdoors where are there are larger spaces for operation and where they less likely to cause accident.

Deaf Persons Can Work as Forklift Operator

It is important for someone with hearing difficulty who is operating a forklift be able to understand instruction and can follow supervision. When that individual has demonstrated high level of safety consciousness and found in the company’s risk assessment that his disability does not present or pose any danger, then there is no reason for the company to bar him from operating forklifts, as long as he has been trained and evaluated regularly as stipulated in OSHA 1910.178(l)(4) provision.

A supplemental solution for him to be a better worker and somehow overcome the condition is to have him wear a hearing aid.

The company’s internal doctor can make further medical evaluation to determine if the worker can still be suitable to work.

Visually Impaired Worker Can Be Determined if They Can Drive Forklift Through Physician’s Assessment

Having peripheral vision and depth perception are the two most important factors when operating forklifts, being visually impaired can put the life of the operator and workers around him in great risk of danger. It will become unsafe to drive the forklifts.

If the company has done its duty for medical testing and set its vision requirement through regular medical check-ups, they can determine who are those operators suffering from such disability and create a risk assessment for them. This is a great way to mitigate the perilous situation because drivers do not usually admit that they are suffering because of fear of losing their job or discrimination.

The most basic case for someone found have vision problem is to have a corrective glasses or lenses. But for someone with more severe condition, then the physician should determine his fate.

Conclusion

By law, employers has the right to set minimum physical requirements, as a matter of fact, ADA does permit employers to adopt medical qualifications for their workers to assure that existing or prospective forklift operators do not pose serious threat to other workers in the workplace, as long as they are not being discriminated.

It is therefore, up to the shoulder of the employer, with their doctor’s guidance, to make better judgment and remove prejudice to comply with the existing ADA and OSHA laws.

The employer must identify what such employees can perform safely without endangering other forklift operators at the workplace.

It is important for the employer to have a regular medical screening to maintain the fleet of workers’ health and condition. It may cost you some money, but it could assure safety and health in the workplace.


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