OSHA requires that employers train workers in the safe operation of a forklift as set forth under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.178 regulations. Only certified and authorized individuals may operate forklifts. A forklift training program consists of three parts:
- Formal instruction such as classroom lectures, discussions, interactive computer learning, videos, or written material on various safety topics.
- Practical, hands-on training covers demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee.
- An evaluation of the operator’s ability to handle the truck safely in the workplace must be conducted by the trainer. Each operator’s performance must be evaluated at least once every three years. Some employers and/or insurance providers may require more frequent evaluations*.
Knowing how to drive a car doesn’t make someone able to operate a forklift, and one forklift can be very different from another. Operators must know the ins and outs of the forklifts they drive, including:
- The location of its controls and how they work
- Visibility, with and without a load
- The forklift’s capacity (how heavy a load it can safely carry) and stability (whether it can be operated on rough terrain or indoors only)
- Whether any fork adaptations or attachments are available and how to use them safely
- How often the forklift needs to be inspected and have routine maintenance performed
Equally important is that forklift operators know the workplace, which can affect safe forklift operation. Operators should know how these factors will affect the “rules of the road”:
- Surface conditions (rough, slick, ramped, or sloped)
- What materials are in the loads and how stable the loads are
- How loads should be manipulated, stacked, and unstacked
- Hazardous locations and restricted areas
- Traffic control measures, including areas where forklifts cannot pass and areas where other workers will be present
Forklift refresher training is required by OSHA when:
- The operator has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner;
- The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident;
- The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the forklift safely;
- The operator is assigned to drive a different type of forklift; or
- A condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safe operation of the forklift.
After the formal and hands-on instruction, the instructor must evaluate the operator’s performance in the workplace. The performance evaluation consists of an observation of the operator performing all typical operations as they navigate through a planned driving course, and demonstrating proper use of the forklift’s controls to lift and lower materials, as well as practical knowledge of safety regulations. This is to ensure that the forklift is operated safely. If the evaluator believes that the operator’s skills are inadequate, additional training may be required. Retraining should be tailored to the reason for the retraining and should focus on specific topic areas with worksite-specific information as needed.
The employer must certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated with a document that includes the name of the operator, the date of the training, the date of the evaluation, and the identity of the person(s) performing the training or evaluation.
For more information, visit: www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/pit/index.html.
*Note: We recommend that you check with your insurance provider about any specific training and performance evaluation frequency requirements if you think they are different from the OSHA regulations