There were big happenings at this year's fall meeting of the Industrial Truck Association. First, ITA announced to its members that it has been approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to become a standards-developing organization. With safety of its members' customers being one of ITA's top priorities, ITA president Dirk von Holt said this will ensure that industrial truck standards will be disseminated to the widest possible audience for use.
"I assure you that the standards will be developed in a timely fashion and benefit all affected parties," von Holt said.
Von Holt also discussed the evolution of ITA's alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. One of the user benefits that comes from that alliance is ready access to safety material. For example, the ITA Daily Check List has been placed on the OSHA Web site. ITA and OSHA have not only linked one another's Web sites, but they've produced a CD indicating the Web site addresses of information currently available from OSHA dealing with industrial trucks (go to www.OSHA.gov).
To dramatize the importance of the partnership ITA established with OSHA, von Holt introduced a special guest speaker at the ITA conference: The head of OSHA himself, John L. Henshaw.
Henshaw recommended that employers do a better job helping their operators follow the OSHA consensus standards developed in conjunction with ITA. That would reduce the risk of those warehousing incidents significantly.
Henshaw said he wants to change OSHA's image as an inspection body and enlist allies on both the lift truck supplier and user sides.
"We may look good on paper when we inspect, but that's not our job," he said. "Our job is to create a safer workplace. To do that we must engage as many partners as we can."
OSHA is finding partners through alliances with associations like ITA. He says safety is too big a job for OSHA to handle alone.
"We have 2,200 employees in OSHA" he continued. "If anyone thinks we can put all that responsibility on their shoulders and say OSHA's the only one that's going to reduce the bottom line, they're crazy."
Henshaw noted that tens of thousands are injured every year by operating powered industrial trucks. In 2003, warehousing and storage operations received the highest number of citations — 166, and 100 fines. He recommended that employers do a better job helping their operators follow the OSHA consensus standards developed in conjunction with ITA. That would reduce the risk of those warehousing incidents significantly.
Injuries in the warehouse are also caused by repetitive motion, and material handlers would do well to make sure the warehousing environment is well thought out from an ergonomic standpoint. Here again, Henshaw didn't want to scare his audience into thinking that OSHA is thinking about resurrecting attempts to produce an ergonomics standard.
"We don't have a standard," he said, "and that's good. But the ergonomics problem has to be solved by businesses across the country. That's what our alliance with the airlines is all about. They're going to find solutions and they'll implement them so we can reduce the number of musculoskeletal disorders in that industry and take the wind out of the sales of the ergo standard. Other industries are doing the same thing."
Henshaw closed by suggesting that lift truck users could make a dramatic difference in safety stats by working with associations like ITA to solve problems — before OSHA has to come in and show them how.