Stop Sign for Personnel Carriers

April 1, 2002
It seems that OSHA has dropped personnel carriers from the PITOT standard. But can you overlook the real potential for personnel carrier accidents?

There it is, on OSHA’s Web site: “This update of Instruction CPL. 2-1.28 is needed since OSHA is reviewing the appropriate training and coverage of personnel and burden carriers ... OSHA offices are not to enforce the powered industrial truck operator training standard for Personnel and Burden Carriers, ASME B56.8.”

Somehow personnel carriers have been dropped from the list of equipment covered by 1910.178 Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training. Therefore the directive covering its compliance has been pulled back until the fate of personnel and burden carriers is decided.

Understandably, personnel and burden carriers didn’t get the attention that mainstream lift trucks got. A few years ago, just before PITOT was finalized, I participated in a seminar aimed at explaining the standard. At that time, OSHA’s Dick Sauger, author of PITOT, explained that the standard covered lift trucks — and also personnel and burden carriers. This news was not well received by the people in the audience who were slated to do the training in companies or material handling equipment distributorships.

I recapped that part of Dick Sauger’s presentation in a segment of an article series, OSHA’s Final Rule on Operator Training ... And How To Comply:

“1. Is it a power-operated vehicle?

“2. Is the vehicle used in the workplace?

“If the answer to questions 1 and 2 is no, then the vehicle is not covered by PITOT. If the answer is yes, continue with:

“3. Is the vehicle licensed to be operated on the highway?

“4. Was the vehicle designed primarily for earthmoving?

“If the answer to questions 3 and 4 is yes, then the vehicle is not covered by PITOT.”

Conclusion: “PITOT mentions that every type of powered lift truck is covered, including walkies and rough-terrain trucks. Also, industrial crane trucks, tow tractors, personnel and burden carriers are covered.”

So if you’re using this article series for guidance to compliance, scratch “tow tractors and burden carriers” from the copy — at least while OSHA is “reviewing the appropriate training and coverage of personnel and burden carriers.”

Therefore, if your company is operating personnel carriers, you don’t have to train according to 1910.178. But if there is a hazard associated with the way the personnel carriers are operated — and especially if there’s an accident — the OSHA compliance officer can enforce the general-duty clause and refer to the B56 consensus standard that applies to personnel and burden carriers as the knowledge of the consensus standard.

The way personnel carriers are operated is an invitation to hazards:

• Often the carrier is operated by any supervisor or maintenance person who needs it at the moment.

• Sometimes the carrier operates among lift trucks or other powered equipment.

• Part-time operators tend to ignore intersections and personnel walkways.

Safety, not the existence of a particular standard, guides the way that programs are developed by Shephard’s Industrial Training Systems Inc. “In many cases the personnel carrier is an overlooked piece of equipment. The problem we have run into is that personnel carriers travel everywhere,” says Jim Shephard, president. “In the past four years we have developed and marketed a training program for personnel carriers.”

Personnel carrier operators who run into an obstacle and are thrown from the vehicle represent a major cause of accidents, says Shephard.

One area of controversy is seat belts on personnel carriers, says Shephard. Aside from preventing the operator from being thrown from the vehicle, “I see a lot of companies putting seat belts on personnel carriers to force people to sit up straight and not leave, say, a foot sticking out.”

Shephard notes that personnel carriers are low-profile and hard to see. Some companies are equipping the carriers with lights or beacons or even bicycle flags to make them more noticeable.

“My pet peeve is the way personnel carrier operators drive these things up and park in front of doorways and access areas. A pedestrian has to leave a safety zone and walk around a personnel carrier that has been parked in a walkway,” Shephard says.

Lesson: There are plenty of opportunities to increase the safety of everybody who operates a personnel carrier as well as the pedestrian who crosses its path — even if OSHA continues to leave it out of the 1910.178 standard.

Bernie Knill, contributing editor, [email protected]

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