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Guide to Forklift Regulations in Ontario - OSHA Forklift Rules

by Carllaen Joshua Gonzales 27 Dec 2023 0 Comments

Only experienced staff members who have received the necessary training, certification, or licensing should operate forklift trucks. Additionally, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and Ontario Ministry of Labor provided a comprehensive set of regulations for the operation of forklifts in Ontario, Canada. This is to ensure that both employers and operators adhere to safety procedures in handling forklifts and create a secure work environment to avoid accidents.

This blog post will serve as a comprehensive guide to forklift regulations in Ontario, focusing on the OSHA forklift rules.

Legal requirements

A lot of industries in Ontario utilize powered forklift trucks in their operation. As such, there are specific rules about them in all three Ministry sector regulations (Mining and Mining PlantsConstruction Projects, and Industrial Establishments) that talk about equipment maintenance, training workers, and making sure that they're safe. However, the legal requirements are restricted to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and Regulation 851.

forklift regulations ontario

Although the OHSA and Regulation 851 do not explicitly mention powered lift trucks, both have provisions related to powered forklift truck operations. Clause 25(1)(b) of the OHSA states that the employer is responsible for providing equipment that is in good condition. Clauses 25(2)(a), (c) and (d) focuses on training workers and supervision. Lastly, clause 25(2)(h) generally requires employers to "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker".

Subsections 51(1) and (2) of Regulation 851 are a bit more specific, with provisions that apply to a "lifting device" which they defined as "a device that is used to raise or lower any material or object and includes its rails and other supports but does not include a device to which the Elevating Devices Act applies." Various terms such as lift trucks, mobile equipment, material handling equipment, vehicles, and powered equipment are also scattered throughout its sections.

forklift safety regulations

This guideline focuses on interpreting and addressing legal requirements related to powered lift trucks, emphasizing crucial areas such as safety inspection, load-handling capacity assessment, operator competence, and training. Compliance involves serious attention to these aspects, to ensure the development of a comprehensive safety program that aligns with legal mandates.

Safety program

The lack of an effective safety program, poorly trained workers, insufficient supervision, and unorganized workplace has resulted in a wide variety of accidents such as collisions, shifting loads, and tip-overs as revealed in a study conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Labor in 1996. Although training workers is important, it is not enough to avoid accidents. There should be a bigger comprehensive powered forklift truck safety program for a workplace to be more efficient and safer.

Hazard identification

Clause 25(2)(d) of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) holds the employer responsible to "acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work… ," which means they are required to identify all hazards involving the use of a forklift truck in the workplace.

forklift hazard identification

The following measures and procedures should be carried out:

  • Determine the potential risks to an employee operating or assisting with a powered lift truck, keeping in mind the tools that will be utilized, the tasks at hand, and the working environment.
  • Write a report that includes a list of all the possible sources of danger or injury that were mentioned in the first stage above. As mandated by OHSA clause 25(2)(d), workers may use this report to educate themselves about the risks associated with their jobs.
  • Review the hazard assessment on a regular basis in the event that there is a major change in the work's operations, and revise the written report accordingly if needed.


As stated in OHSA's Clause 25(2)(a), an employer is required to "provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker". Regulation 851 more specifically stated that a lifting device must be only operated by someone who:

  • is qualified because of his knowledge, training, and experience to organize the work and its performance,
  • is familiar with the provisions of this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and
  • has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.

forklift safety training

During training, the operator should learn the basic fundamental skills and rules for safely operating a forklift. It should also include supervised practice sessions led by a qualified trainer. In addition to making sure the operator is properly trained, employers have an obligation to people whose jobs put them in danger when working near powered lift trucks. The suggested actions are as follows:

  • Make documented policies and procedures for preventing accidents and injuries for each possible cause of harm or injury mentioned in the hazard identification.
  • Make sure that all managers and employees who operate near lift trucks are aware of the risks, have received training on how to prevent injuries, and are aware of the location of the written policies and procedures.
  • Any changes to the policies and procedures resulting from modifications to the work should be communicated to managers and employees.


In accordance to Section 25(2)(c), the OHSA requires employers to appoint a competent supervisor for powered lift truck operations. This person should have training and experience to understand hazards, identify unsafe conditions promptly, and take corrective measures. Employers should encourage proactive hazard recognition and correction by supervisors.

Operating procedures

forklift operating procedures

Employers should, at the very least, make sure that the following current regulatory obligations are met:

  • No portion of a load should cross over any employee
  • In order to prevent unintentional movement, a lift truck that is left unattended needs to be immobilized, its forks, buckets, and other attachments lowered or securely held.
  • Loads must be managed in compliance with the weight and height limitations on the load chart of the vehicle; no load may be greater than the maximum rated load.
  • An operator must monitor the controls when a load is in the elevated position
  • A signaler trained in a code of signals for controlling traffic in the workplace must be utilized if an operator is unable to see well.
  • When conditions allow, loads must be transported as near to the ground or floor as possible
  • Loads need to be secured if they could topple over or fall and harm an employee
  • When a lift truck has to load or unload a vehicle, it needs to be immobilized and fastened to prevent unintentional movement
  • A lift truck may only be utilized in an industrial setting in compliance with Regulation 851 (Section 52), and it may not be used to support, raise, or lower workers on a construction site
  • Where pedestrians are at risk of collision, there needs to be barriers, warning signs, designated paths, or other safety measures in place.

A second set of guidelines and safe operating procedures should be created and put into place in addition to the aforementioned ones to address hazards unique to the location where the lift truck will be utilized.

A truck inspection also needs to be part of the operating procedures before the operator's shift. To help with this pre-shift check, a checklist covering the following topics should be created: fork wear and condition; tire pressure and condition; fluid and fuel levels; battery and electrolyte levels; steering, brake, and limit switch operation; and cleanliness.

forklift operation procedure

Additionally, the operator needs to evaluate the lift mechanism's condition, look for damage or leaks, and assess the mast and chains. Any problems must be reported to the supervisor.

Maintenance and repair procedures

Employers have a general obligation under OHSA clause 25(1)(b) to make sure that equipment is kept in good working condition. Clause 51(1)(a) of Regulation 851 says that equipment that is intended for lifting purposes must be built and equipped to ensure the safety of all workers; clause 51(1)(b) addresses the equipment's lifting capacity.

forklift repair procedures

The powered forklift truck must be inspected on a regular basis, maintained and repaired as needed in order to guarantee that these standards are being met. The safety of the workers should be the primary concern for all parts of the truck's operations, not just the load-handling features.

Facility design

Injuries and accidents can also be caused by poorly designed workspaces. At the very least, employers need to make sure the following actions are taken:

  • There are sufficient clearances on the top and side of loading docks, through doors, and within rooms for the lift truck to operate safely.
  • Clear paths, aisles, and floors are maintained free of risk.
  • In order to avoid the buildup of vapors from the refueling and operation of lift trucks, the workspace should be sufficiently ventilated.

right facility design for forklifts

Lift truck selection criteria

Because every forklift is built to perform differently in various work conditions, the risks involved in using a particular powered lift truck will vary depending on its kind, make, and model. Therefore, precautions must be taken to guarantee that the forklift chosen for a task has the right features for the types of loads to be handled, the terrain over which loads will be carried, the atmospheric conditions in the workplace, and the workplace design.

For example, lift trucks fueled by gasoline, diesel, or petrol shouldn't be utilized in locations where there could be explosive concentrations of flammable gasses, combustible dusts, or volatile vapors, or where exhaust fumes could build up and provide a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

selecting the right forklift

Every lift truck should have information about the maximum rated load and the variation of the rated safe load capacity with the reach of the equipment clearly posted for the safety of other workers as well as the operators. Should a truck undergo modifications, the data must to be updated to align with the updated load ratings. Additionally, every truck should have the following accessories:

  • an adequate guard, grill, screen, or other structure to shield the operator from falling objects or anything that may be disruptive (as required by Regulation 851)
  • suitable lighting and warning equipment for the workplace; and
  • if necessary, a seat belt or other restraining device that is expected to increase the operator's safety.


Section 51 of Regulation 851 sets two requirements for competency which are: Clause 51(2)(a) requires the truck operator to be a competent person and clause 51(1)(b) requires the examination of the forklift's load-handling capability is to be carried out by a competent person.

The OHSA defines a "competent person" as someone who has "knowledge, training, and experience to organize the work and its performance". Every operator and maintenance technician must have this quality.

Competence of maintenance technicians

In order to be qualified to service a forklift, a maintenance technician needs to meet certain requirements for knowledge and skills. But just as crucial is the technician's experience with different powered lift truck models and types. It is essential that they be able to use their knowledge and expertise to evaluate any limits or limitations on how a particular forklift may be used. The owner or employer should confirm that a technician has actual expertise working on the specific kind of truck before hiring them.

forklift maintenance technician

According to the Ministry, the following credentials are required in order for someone to be qualified to service a powered forklift truck in compliance with the law:

  • understanding of personal safety procedures required to conduct regular and occasional checks of powered lift vehicles currently in operation;
  • knowledge of industry jargon, phrases used in this guideline, and any documents that this guideline references;
  • the capacity to read and comprehend parts lists, manufacturer's specs, drawings, and instructions for powered lift trucks;
  • understanding the role and operation of every part, equipment, and accessory frequently used on powered forklift trucks, as well as how to conduct an examination to make sure they are all operating as intended;
  • practical understanding of hydraulic and electrical control circuit principles as they relate to the operation of valves, pumps, cylinders (plungers), and pipes, as well as motors, pumps, valves, and switches;
  • practical understanding of mechanical concepts as they relate to mechanics, buildings, and the impact of traction on chains and sheaves; and
  • if suitable, practical understanding of pneumatic concepts as they relate to the operation of pressure vessels, pipelines, compressors, cylinders (plungers), and valves.

Five years of field service experience working for powered lift truck customers, manufacturers, distributors, or service groups is typically required to meet the above requirements.

Competence of operators

Lift truck drivers must have the knowledge and abilities to operate the truck safely, protecting both their own and others' safety, as well as being aware of the possible risks related to their jobs. It is important that they understand how the particular class of truck that has been given to them operates. It is the employer's duty to assess a worker's competence to operate a powered lift truck.

forklift competent operators

The following are some points that a "competent" operator should understand:

  • the OHSA sections and regulations that apply to the work;
  • the risks related to the operation, such as the lift truck's features and operating principles, the surroundings and working conditions, and any activities that actually or potentially endanger workers' health and safety;
  • the manufacturer's recommendations for load handling and safe operation for the class or kind of truck to be driven; and
  • the policies and procedures designed specifically for the workplace that guarantee employee safety.

In accordance with established competency requirements, a "competent" operator should be able to carry out the following tasks using the truck to be operated and in standard workplace settings:

  • pre-operational check;
  • start-up and shut-down;
  • general operation: stopping, starting, turning, driving forward and in reverse, parking, operating around personnel;
  • load handling including personnel lifting, stacking, and restocking as well as load selection and security;
  • loading and unloading: transport vehicles, structures, elevators; and
  • operational maintenance like re-fueling and recharging.

certified forklift operator

Businesses must keep records of all workers who are certified to operate powered lift vehicles, including information about their demonstrated skills and knowledge, the truck classes they were tested for, the assessor's data, and the dates of their completion. Employers are able to designate qualified operators with ease by issuing certifications.


In order to adhere to the legal requirements set by the OHSA and Reuglation 851 mentioned above, the employer must conduct a periodic check of the forklifts being used to ensure safety and load-handling capability. As an employer, this is one of their responsibilities. 

These regular inspection procedures and repair of forklifts can then be added to the powered-lift-truck safety program mentioned previously.

General safety inspection and maintenance

Legal requirements for the general maintenance and safety of powered lift trucks are not very specific. Employers are generally required by OHSA Clause 25(1)(b) to make sure that all equipment is kept in good working order. A lifting device must be designed and equipped in a way that sufficiently ensures the safety of all workers, according to Regulation 851, Clause 51(1)(a).

general forklift maintenance

According to how these clauses should be read, powered lift vehicles must have regular maintenance and inspections performed to guarantee their safety.

Load-handling capability

A lifting device must be thoroughly inspected by a competent person before being used for the first time and then at least once a year after that to make sure it can support its maximum rated load, as per Regulation 851, Clause 51(1)(b). This means that, taking into account whatever modifications the dealer may have made, even brand-new equipment needs to be inspected to ensure it can lift. When buying a used vehicle, it is even more important to confirm the load rating.

Whether purchasing new or used equipment, the employer is ultimately in charge of this inspection. Sellers may seem accountable, but employers are legally obligated to fulfill this responsibility. Employers can do this by acquiring equipment from suppliers that guarantee regulatory compliance.

forklift maximum load capacity

However, according to OHSA subsection 31(1), the supplier is in charge of making sure the lift truck is in conformity with rules when it is rented. When renting a lift truck, employers should ask the provider to submit written confirmation of the vehicle's regulatory compliance. The user of the rented equipment is in charge of its continuous general maintenance, unless otherwise indicated in the leasing agreement.


"Competent person" means that an examination to ascertain lifting capabilities, as mentioned in section 51(1)(b), must be conducted. The ability to verify that a powered lift truck can raise its maximum rated load is a requirement for competence.

Inspection frequency

Clause 51(1)(b) of Regulation 851 states that a lift truck's load-handling capacity must be evaluated following the initial examination and "as often as necessary but not less frequently than recommended by the manufacturer, and in any case at least once a year." Increased usage calls for more frequent examination, such as double shifts. Even with low usage, a yearly check is necessary. Certain factors, such as extreme weather and different kinds of loads, could require more regular inspections as well.

forklift inspection frequency

Any changes that impact a truck's ability to handle loads also require a Clause 51(1)(b) examination. Although the frequency of general safety inspections is not specified in the regulations, it would be reasonable to include such inspections in the yearly assessment mandated by Clause 51(1)(b).


Regulation 851, clause 51(1)(b), mandates that a "permanent record" of the load-handling capacity examination be kept on file. Under Regulation 851, "permanent record" has a very specific definition. According to Section 6, a record of this kind must be preserved for a minimum of a year, or for a longer duration if necessary to guarantee that the two most current reports or records are retained.

This implies that the records would need to be kept for two years if annual examinations were conducted. As is typically the case, it does not prohibit records from being maintained for longer periods, such as the vehicle's operational life.

Roles of employers and maintenance contractors

While some organizations may handle the inspections and subsequent maintenance work by themselves, many will need to hire a third-party maintenance provider. Because of this, it's critical that employers and maintenance contractors comprehend exactly what their responsibilities are.

forklift employer and contractor roles


Employers are accountable for establishing procedures to adhere to Regulation 851, subsection 51(1), and clause 25(1)(b) of the OHSA for each powered lift truck used in the workplace. These procedures include periodic inspections to ensure equipment safety and its capability to handle maximum loads, in compliance with manufacturer requirements.

Employers must also mark forklifts with their maximum rated load capacity for operator visibility. Additionally, Regulation 851 mandates employers to maintain a permanent record of clause 51(1)(b) examinations, signed by a qualified individual, specifying the vehicle's capability to carry its maximum rated weight.

Maintenance contractors

Maintenance contractors are not directly held accountable under Regulation 851 or the OHSA for work on powered lift vehicles. The responsibility lies with the employer who has a service contract with the maintenance contractor. Employers must ensure that the contracted work meets specific standards.

Despite outsourcing labor, employers cannot transfer their obligations under the OHSA or its regulations to maintenance contractors. The contractor's role is limited to certifying the equipment's condition during the inspection. Employers remain ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with safety standards.

For more comprehensive information regarding safety standards and forklift regulations in Ontario, please visit the official Government of Ontario website at Remember to stay informed and always prioritize safety in your workplace.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The content is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete, or up-to-date. It is the reader's responsibility to seek appropriate legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information provided. The authors and publisher disclaim all liability for any actions taken or not taken based on this article. Use of this information is at the reader's own risk.

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