Operating a forklift involves moving large, heavy items that humans often could not possibly carry. That makes the process inherently dangerous and OSHA has no tolerance for untrained forklift operators in commercial and industry settings. Not only do forklift operators need to get regular safety training, they also need to gain OSHA certification.
Earning forklift certification is quite different than getting something like a law degree. Training courses are often laser-focused on the type of machine or machines you will be operating. Courses also may account for materials and other factors. It’s not necessarily a general certification. And that type of specialization makes sense given the wide range of materials and unique hazards faced by operators. Formal training may include the following.
- Understanding warning and precautions
- Controls and instrumentation
- Motor operation
- Steering and maneuvering ability
- Potential hazards and visibility issues
- Vehicle capacity and stabilization
- Vehicle limits
- Load management
- Safe operation issues, including stacking, pedestrians, sloping surfaces, and hazard conditions
Training courses generally run 3-5 days depending on the curriculum.
Can You Get Online Certification?
In many states, food servers and bartenders can get certified online. That may seem odd given the physical nature of food and beverage handling. Online forklift certification programs can be helpful, but OSHA will require a hands-on operational time.
Operators must be qualified to handle the physical, auditory, mental and visual aspects of forklift work. Running a machine is not like office work and certification is designed to keep operators and co-workers safe.
Who Needs Certification?
Within a given company, not everyone needs to have OSHA certification. But to get on the machine and start it up, that person must be OSHA certified or undergoing defined and supervised training. Refresher training is required of each operator at least once within a three-year period. Companies that allow non-certified forklift operators to work in their facility face hefty fines from OSHA among other penalties.