A Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) awareness survey showed almost half the forklift users interviewed did not know what Thorough Examination (TE) was.
Interviewers telephoned a random sample of businesses known to operate materials handling equipment and spoke to people responsible for their forklifts.
Only 56 per cent of those surveyed knew what TE was, although it has been a legal requirement since 1998.
The FLTA said it was worrying that many believed TE was a normal part of routine maintenance. Just 13 per cent of those interviewed knew it was not.
For long-term hire, 31 per cent knew the operating company was responsible for TE. For short-term hire, only three per cent knew both the operating company and the hire company were responsible to ensure forklifts had current TE reports.
FLTA chairman Richard Baxter said the survey results confirmed the association's worst suspicions.
"If almost half those responsible for operating forklifts are not even aware of the existence of TE, it's hard to imagine they can be complying with its obligations.
"Judging by the obvious confusion over responsibilities in relation to it, we are more convinced than ever that many users are seriously at risk of breaking the law."
Baxter said the industry had its own accredited scheme for TE.
"It was set up by the FLTA and BITA, working together as Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS) in consultation with the Health & Safety Executive. CFTS has a website (www.thoroughexamination.org
), which explains what TE is all about and what it requires of truck users," he said.