The Importance of Forklift Operator Training

The cornerstone of any good safety program is training, and the same is true for powered industrial vehicle (forklift) safety. Any person who operates a forklift is required by OSHA to take a training program set up by his or her employer.

Safe Forklift Operating Label

It is up to the employer to ensure that this training includes general safe principles of truck operation, the types of trucks used, the hazards of the vehicle, and the safety requirements of OSHA standards.

This training must include both formal instruction in the form of lectures or forklift safety videos and practical instruction in the form of demonstrations and exercises. The employer has to certify that every operator has received the proper training and must evaluate operators at least one time every three years.

Operators who are not adequately trained in forklift operations are at great risk of injury because of their lack of understanding. All operators should have knowledge of the principles of physics that allow a forklift to lift heavy loads. They should also know how to deal with their specific type of forklift and all of its safety features. Each operator must know how to maintain the vehicle and be aware of any malfunctioning parts, so they do not use it when it is unsafe.

Operator Training Topics

The following content should be included in all beginner training for powered industrial truck operators:

Forklift Operator Safety

  • Operating instructions, precautions, and warnings for the specific kinds of truck the operator will use
  • Automobile and forklift differences
  • Electric motor or engine operations
  • Steering and maneuvering
  • Visibility and visibility restrictions due to loads
  • Limitations, operation, and adaptation of fork and attachments
  • Capacity of vehicle
  • Stability of vehicle
  • Maintenance and vehicle inspections that will be performed by the operator
  • Charging and recharging of batteries or refueling
  • Limitations of operating • Surface conditions.
  • Load stability
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • Narrow aisles
  • Ramps and sloped surfaces
  • Ventilation in closed environments
  • Any other potentially hazardous environmental conditions

It is important that all new hires are trained before operating a forklift, and refresher training can be extremely beneficial. Providing comprehensive training is an investment for both safety and efficiency. Forklift operators are less likely to be injured when properly trained, and trained operators keep work areas safe for pedestrians. Less injuries in the workplace means less time operators are out of commission and their productivity will increase when are confident in their forklift operator training.

For all operator training requirements, check out OSHA’s online tools.


Additional Resources