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Overhead Guard

What Does Overhead Guard Mean?

An overhead guard is a protective cover installed over the seat of a forklift. It is designed to protect the operator from falling objects, such as stacked loads that tip and fall.

Overhead guards are effective at deflecting small items but are not designed to bear the impact of a heavy load dropped from an elevated height.

Safeopedia Explains Overhead Guard

According to OSHA standard CFR 1910.178(m)(9), overhead guards are intended to provide protection from the impact of small packages, bagged materials, and boxes, but not the impact of a falling capacity load.

All rough-terrain forklift trucks, high-lift rider trucks, and order picker trucks must be equipped with an overhead guard manufactured in accordance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B56.1-1969, “Safety Standard for Low and High Lift Trucks.”

OSHA’s requirements and recommended practices for overhead guards are as follows:

  • Use overhead guard as protection against falling objects
  • Wear a hard hat for additional protection
  • Keep hands and feet within the forklift to protect them from falling loads
  • Use the load backrest extension behind the forks to prevent the load from falling backward
  • The overhead guard must be checked for damage or irregularities as part of the forklift’s daily inspection routine

Limitation of Overhead Guard

The presence of an overhead guard does not guarantee complete protection. If a falling capacity load lands on the overhead guard, the support of the overhead guard receiving the maximum loading is designed to absorb energy and deform in order to deflect that load. This can be life-threatening for the operator, who must be provided with adequate training and follow safety procedures and protocols while operating a lift truck. The overhead guard must not be considered a substitute for good judgment and care in handling loads.

ANSI tests overhead guards for crush or maximum deformation but not for deflection capability. The designated test load is a specified weight and size of a bundle of lumber that is dropped from a specified height. The overhead guard is required to maintain minimum distances between the seat and steering wheels.

Modifications and additions to the forklift or its overhead guard can alter its specifications and cause potential accidents. It is necessary to get approval from the manufacturer before any alterations or additions are made that may affect the safe operation of the forklift.


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