Forklift Safety Newsletter – May 2016 – Load Backrest Tall Enough?

Is Your Load Backrest Tall Enough?

OSHA generally requires that lift trucks which handle small objects or un-banded units have a vertical load backrest of sufficient height, width, and strength to prevent the load or any part of it from falling toward the
operator.Load Backrest 1

In this photo the operator is attempting to pick up un-banded plywood. You will notice that the top panels are not supported by the load backrest. Without the support of the load backrest the loose panels can shift causing the load to become unstable. And when the load is raised higher the top panels have the potential to slide over the top of the mast and onto the overhead guard possibly striking the operator.

There are three solutions to this scenario:

  1. Pick up less material,
  2. Band the upper unit, or
  3. Add extensions onto the load backrest.

Federal law does allow for adding extensions to minimize the possibility of the load or part of it from falling rearward. However, please be aware that modifications which affect the capacity and safe operation of the forklift must not be performed by the customer or user without the manufacturer’s prior written approval. Such a change may also require a new capacity plate.

A best practice is to contact the manufacturer and discuss options with them. They may be able to provide you with extensions or a different load backrest that will meet your needs.

While adding extensions may solve the problem of supporting your load it has the potential to create another problem. The extra height of the extensions may increase the risk of striking overhead objects in the work environment such as rafters, steam pipes, etc.

Be cautious whenever you are considering the modification of any piece of equipment and consider the potential benefits and consequences of the modification.


If you would like to share your experiences/photos of forklift incidents that can educate others on the principles of safe forklift operation please send them to:

We will not publish company or individuals names.

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Bruce Hulberg May 4, 2016
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