OSHA requires forklift operators to be certified to use a forklift and authorized from the employer to operate the forklift. Forklifts, or powered industrial trucks, are a staple of many workplaces, but can also be the most dangerous hazards in the workplace. They are vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds that are often traveling in the same space as pedestrians and moving large loads from one area to another. Without the proper training, the risk of a tip over, collision, or other harmful accident is much more likely to occur.
In order to become certified as a forklift operator, an employee will need to complete training that is administered by their employer or a third party acting on the behalf of the employee and employer. It is not a lengthy time commitment and individuals can typically complete certification in a single day. Under OSHA regulations, forklift operators must be over the age of 18, training must be conducted on-site, and documentation of the training must be kept and maintained. If not, it will be noted in an OSHA inspection and a company may face penalties.
Forklift certification covers three elements of forklift safety:
- The Equipment: Operators must be trained on the specific equipment they will be using (i.e internal combustion trucks, motor hand trucks electric rider trucks, etc.).
- The Environment: This portion of training will teach operators how to navigate hazardous areas. Topics may include driving on ramps, driving in high-traffic pedestrian spots, or driving in tight spaces.
- The Product: Finally, the training program must focus on the certain type of product they are moving (i.e barrels, boxes, hazardous chemicals, etc.)
Following the training session, employees must demonstrate the ability to safely and correctly operate the equipment for certification. Employees will need to be retrained if they are involved in a forklift accident, experienced a near miss, or are consistently operating the forklift in an unsafe manner. It should be noted that certifications are not always transferrable between jobs. Often when an individual changes employer, they must be certified by their new employer.