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OSHA Forklift Training: What You Need to Know

Powered industrial trucks such as forklifts can present some risks in the workplace, which means employers should ensure proper training is conducted. Only appropriately trained personnel should operate the machinery, and OSHA provides some guidelines for what should be included in training.

Why Is Forklift Training Important?

One reason to incorporate OSHA-approved forklift training into your processes is that federal law prohibits anyone who isn’t properly certified operating such equipment at work. Even more importantly, the right training can help prevent accidents from operator error or inexperienced operation.

What Are OSHA’s Requirements for Forklift Training?

OSHA requires employers to create training programs that incorporate general safety topics as well as specifics about both the type of equipment and potential hazards in the workplace. Training must include both formal — or classroom-style learning — and hands-on application. Formal training can incorporate formats such as classroom lectures, videos and readings, online participation, and discussion groups.

Before employees can operate material handling equipment on the job, employers must evaluate their ability to safety and effectively handle the machines. OSHA requires that this is done in the form of a certificate that documents that the employee was trained and passed requirements for operation of forklifts. Documentation of the certification should include the name of the employee, the names of anyone conducting the evaluation, the training date and the evaluation date.

Refresher Training Requirements

OSHA considers forklift operator training to be critical to maintaining safety in the workplace, which is why it requires staff engage in training periodically and in certain situations. Employers must evaluate operators and ensure safe, proper performance at least once every three years. If a previously certified operator is witnessed using a forklift in an improper manner or was involved in an accident — even if it wasn’t his or her fault — refresher training is required.

OSHA also requires employers to provide refresher training if:

  • An employee will be operating equipment new to him or her; this is true even when working with temporary material handling equipment rentals
  • Workplace conditions change and might present different challenges or risks
  • The worker fails a periodic evaluation of forklift operation performance

Topics to Cover in OSHA Forklift Training in PA

In addition to defining when employers must provide forklift training, OSHA provides some very specific guidance regarding the topics to be covered. It should include topics relevant to the operation of forklifts, such as how to work the controls and ensure a proper balance of weight. Operators must learn to identify the capacity limits of their vehicles and understand gauges and how to read them.
Employees must also learn about operating forklifts in the specific workplace, which means training should cover:

  • Ramps, slopes and any terrain that might need to be traversed
  • How to navigate narrow aisles or other areas of a warehouse
  • Where pedestrians might be expected on forklift routes
  • What signage to expect in the workplace and how to follow those instructions
  • Hazardous areas
  • What surface conditions to expect
  • Appropriate stacking and unstacking procedures related to the company

Where to Get Comprehensive Forklift Training Materials

Companies can choose to develop their own OSHA forklift training or work with a vendor that provides approved training. The benefit of working with a reliable vendor is that you can ensure that all aspects required by OSHA are included in your training materials.