Forklift Operator FAQs: How to Get Forklift Certified

forklift certification

Are you interested in becoming a forklift operator? Here's everything you need to know for success.

What Are a Forklift Operator's Responsibilities?

Forklift operators transport heavy materials around a facility like a warehouse, factory, storage facility, or construction site using a powered industrial truck like a lift truck.

That includes tasks like:

  • Moving, stacking, and organizing heavy merchandise or materials safely
  • Safely loading and unloading shipment trucks and other vessels
  • Executing basic equipment maintenance including regular inspections and lubrication
  • Identifying and reporting equipment malfunctions to supervisors
  • Adhering to OSHA and other safety and health standards to ensure a safe work environment

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What Are The Most Important Qualities In A Forklift Operator?

First of all, you need to be over 18. Since operating a forklift is dangerous, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes it federally illegal for a minor to operate, workaround, or interact with a powered industrial truck.

You need certain physical abilities as well, such as the ability to lift, sit, stand, move, squat, walk, and climb repeatedly during a shift.

Previous warehouse experience, attention to detail, great communication and organization skills, and mechanical aptitude are also excellent qualities in a forklift operator.

What Are OSHA's Regulations For Forklifts?

OSHA's forklift regulations can be found under 29 CFR 1910.178. It's known as the Powered Industrial Truck Standard.

How Often Should Operators Inspect Their Forklift?

OSHA regulation §1910.178(q)(7) says that forklifts should be examined before they're placed into service, at least daily. When a forklift operates around the clock, they need to be examined after each shift.

Forklifts shouldn't be placed into service if you find any adverse condition that will affect the safety of the vehicle. Defects should be immediately reported and corrected.

What Must Be Done Daily Before Using A Forklift?

While daily inspections are required by OSHA, there's no specific forklift safety checklist to follow.

In fact, you aren't even required to document the inspection, though it's a good idea. Documentation ensures that all features are checked routinely. And should something go wrong, you'll have a way to show the OSHA inspector you've put in an effort.

In some jurisdictions, you may require a forklift safety checklist, though. Cal/OSHA requires safety inspection logs to be kept for one year.

How Many Truck Lengths Between Forklifts?

According to §1910.178(n)(1), OSHA requires roughly three truck lengths between forklifts for safety.

What Is the Recommended Speed For Forklifts Operating Within A Manufacturing Facility And Warehouse?

OSHA doesn't specifically recommend a safe operating speed in its forklift requirements.

The regulations do say that forklifts should be operated at a speed that will permit them to stop safely, and that speed should be reduced to a safe level while negotiating turns.

Some factors in determining a safe speed are relatively static for a single piece of equipment, like the type of truck, the manufacturer's limitations, and the load being carried.

Others vary from day to day or moment to moment, like the load, operating surface conditions, and amount of pedestrian traffic.

A forklift operator needs to adjust their speed to account for all of these things to drive safely.

Do Powered Industrial Trucks Have To Have Backup Alarms Or Warning Lights?

In a letter of interpretation on the subject, OSHA said that while these features aren't specifically required by the OSHA standard, if you fail to use them you may be in violation anyway via the General Duty clause.

Under the General Duty clause, employers have a responsibility to use feasible means to abate the exposure to known hazards. Alarms and warning lights are considered by the industry to be feasible ways to abate the struck-by, caught-between, and crushing hazards that forklifts present.

Does OSHA Require Forklifts To Have Fire Extinguishers?

OSHA has no specific requirement for a forklift fire extinguisher. However, the powered industrial truck standard requires that electrical and gas-powered units have "minimum acceptable safeguards against inherent fire hazards."

If a forklift fire extinguisher is installed, you need to inspect the portable extinguisher monthly and conduct an annual maintenance check to comply with §1910.157(e).

How Do You Get Forklift Certified?

OSHA's forklift regulations require operators to be certified by employers through training and evaluation.

What Forklift Training Do You Need?

To earn your forklift certification, you need two types of training, followed by an evaluation. That includes:

  • Formal instruction (like eLearning) on a series of topics specified in the standard
  • Practical training, including demonstrations followed by practical exercises.
  • Evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace

Once these steps are completed to the satisfaction of the trainer, your employer can certify your competence.

A few caveats: the training needs to apply to the type of truck the trainee will be operating. Training and evaluation need to be conducted by someone with the necessary knowledge, training, and experience. Trainees can only operate a forklift under direct supervision and only when it doesn't endanger the trainee or other employees.

When Do Forklift Operators Need Refresher Training?

OSHA requires refresher training for forklift operators when the operator:

  • Has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner
  • Has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident
  • Has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely
  • Is assigned to drive a different kind of truck, or
  • A condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safe truck operation.

The requirements for forklift refresher training are essentially the same as initial training, including both training and evaluation phases.

How Often Should A Forklift Operator Be Evaluated?

Evaluation is a part of initial and refresher training, but OSHA also requires a forklift operator's performance to be evaluated in the workplace at least once every 3 years.

Where Can You Get Forklift Training?

As an OSHA-authorized training provider, we offer self-paced online training in OSHA's forklift requirements. Just pick the type of forklift you'll be driving: stand-up forklift, sit-down forklift, aerial/scissor lifts, and more.

That will take care of your formal training portion. You'll get a certificate of completion, then your employer will need to complete the practical training and evaluation steps.

Enroll now!