How do I justify to my boss we need to train our forklift operators?

There are many reasons why all owners of powered industrial trucks should invest in forklift operator training. As well as document the training process of their powered industrial truck operators. First and foremost training operators in the safe operation of these vehicle is mandated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR) 1910.178(l) . Yes, it’s the law and owners of powered industrial equipment must comply; however, our main justification must be because we all want to stay safe and healthy. We want to complete the training to minimize the hazards associated with operating this equipment. This gives us a much better chance of going home after work each day as healthy as we arrived and without the burden of having injured a pedestrian or having damaged our equipment, our products or our facilities. Forklift accidents can cause severe injury to employees and expensive damage to company property. Before any employees operate a forklift, or lift truck, OSHA requires they complete an approved forklift operator training course. Efficient programs teach participants everything they need to know to stay safe while operating heavy machinery, forklifts and lift trucks; including how to inspect a forklift, handle a load, refuel and recharge, drive safely and follow the “rules of the road.” Make sure you comply with OSHA, and your employees stay safe with these forklift operator training courses. Compliance with training regulations will prevent unexpected OSHA fines and the liability costs of not having been in compliance should an accident occur.

Training and evaluation of drivers is an ongoing activity. Document your training so you are prepared to answer any training questions an OSHA inspector may ask if you receive a visit from a compliance officer. You must train operators before they operate your equipment. While annual training is not required, an evaluation of each powered industrial truck operator’s performance is required to be conducted after initial training, after refresher training, and at least once every three years. Refresher training must be provided when:

  1. The operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
  2. The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident.
  3. The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely.
  4. The operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck.
  5. A condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safety operation of the truck.

A Powered Industrial Truck is any mobile power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier materials. Powered industrial trucks can be ridden or controlled by a walking operator. Earth moving and over the road haulage trucks are not included in the definition. Equipment that was designed to move earth but has been modified to accept forks are also not included.

Vehicles covered include:

  • High lift trucks
  • Counter-balanced trucks
  • Cantilevered trucks
  • Rider trucks
  • Forklift trucks
  • High lift platform trucks
  • Low lift trucks
  • Low lift platform trucks
  • Motorized hand trucks
  • Pallet trucks
  • Narrow aisle rider trucks
  • Straddle trucks
  • Reach rider trucks
  • Single side loader rider trucks
  • High lift order picker rider trucks
  • Motorized hand/rider trucks
  • Rough terrain trucks

Operator training needs to cover the theory of safety concepts in a classroom environment, the actual applications the operator will be experiencing on the job and hands on training on the types of equipment they will be expected to operate. A good training course includes:

    • Moving with and without a load as well as picking up and stacking a load
    • Special considerations, such as trailers, ramps and elevators
    • Non-operator safety training for those who work around forkliftsThe OSHA standard on training of powered industrial truck operators applicable to construction is 29 CFR 1926.602(d), which states that the requirements applicable to construction work are identical to those set forth at 1910.178(l). The construction standard covers the same types of equipment as covered by the general industry standard. Specialized equipment used in the construction industry includes rough terrain straight-mast and extended reach forklift trucks.Training kits are available in many languages including English, Spanish and French. This should be reviewed with your outside trainer when your workforce consists of operators from non-English speaking countries.
    • While the OSHA standard does not require testing some method of evaluation is necessary. It is easy to show an OSHA compliance officer you are complying if you do test and document the testing both on the classroom ideas and the hands-on performance evaluation. You may choose to issue operator certificates (or licenses) to your operators, but this is not required by OSHA. Again, it does make it easier to verify operators are trained and up-to-date on the 3-year evaluations. The OSHA standard requires that the employer certify that each operator has received the training and has been evaluated. The written certification record must include 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. You must retain the certification documentation records for 3 years.
    • You may bring in an outside trainer to ensure your operators get quality instruction. It is, also, a good idea to buy a training kit and have a manager go through a Train-the-Trainer course to efficiently get new hires trained as soon as they are hired. With operator turn over it is recommended to conduct training once a year with an outside professional operator trainer once a year. This is more than what is required, but establishes a good reliable training program.
    • Many participants may benefit from involvement in the training. Be sure to include Individuals requiring forklift certification, Forklift operator trainers, Forklift operators’ Warehouse/shipping/receiving managers, Construction site managers, Safety managers, Safety committee members, Operations managers. OSHA has issued several letters of interpretations about training of temporary employees. Basically, there is a shared responsibility for assuring employees are adequately trained. The responsibility for providing training should be spelled out in the contractual agreement between the two parties. The temporary agency or the contracting employer may conduct the training and evaluation of operators from a temporary agency as required by the standard; however, the host employer (or other employer who enters into a contract with the temporary agency) must provide site-specific information and training on the use of the types of trucks and workplace-related topics that are present in the workplace.

This should give you what you need to justify the cost of operator training. Good luck with your training and your operations.


%s thoughts on "Justifying Forklift Operator Training"

  • Ashley Turns says:

    The warehouse my husband works for is considering starting some forklift driver training for its employees to make sure everything stays safe. So I appreciate your tip to make sure this kind of program takes place with each of your employees at least once a year so that any new employees you may have will definitely get certified. I’ll make sure my husband tells his boss that they should have a forklift driver training take place once a year so that everyone will know exactly how to operate one, even if they are a new employee.

  • Marcus says:

    Thank you for mentioning how you need to undertake a forklift training course if you start driving a different type of truck. It is important to remember that taking the time to do some research and read online reviews can help you find the best training for your needs. I understand that knowing when you need to take a forklift training can help you know when you need to be safe and take it again.

  • It amazes me that people need to justify operator training for forklifts, but I hear about it all the time. Unfortunately, I also hear the sad stories about completely avoidable accidents that occur when untrained operators make terrible mistakes. A few years ago a young man lost his life in our town after someone decided to use a lift truck and a pallet to lift him up to change some light bulbs in a warehouse. Any properly trained operator would have NEVER done this. Instead it was a huge lawsuit and a family without a son. Keep fighting the good fight and we’ll see a lot less of those stories.

  • Tiffany Locke says:

    I’m glad that you mention how driving training is an ongoing activity and you need to document it. A great way to do this would be to make sure you visit a training school that specializes in heavy vehicle licenses. This could ensure you’re able to get the skills and knowledge you need to safely operate the vehicles you plan to use.

  • Abigail Ford says:

    An article worth reading. Forklift plays a prominent role in warehouse operations. However, operating a forklift in an inappropriate way could lead to accidents which could endanger the life of the employee and also affects the productivity of the warehouse. So, experienced and properly trained professionals should be hired to operate such kind of equipment to minimize the possibility of accidents. Apart from this, weaker pallets should be replaced to prevent pallet rack collapse and subsequent product loss.

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