Forklift Operator Training

by on June 13th, 2011
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all persons operating forklifts to be properly trained and certified. Even if a person has been previously trained and certified they are required to be re-trained and certified when beginning a new job or working in a new facility. This is to insure any unique settings or circumstances of the new facility are properly covered in the training process. This may include ramps, uneven work platforms, overhead obstructions, specialized loading/unloading equipment, chemicals or other hazardous environments. While this training may be conducted in house by a member of your own staff, there are certain requirements which must be met if the training is to be in compliance with OSHA standards.

The OSHA standards for forklift operator training requires a three step process be used. While training programs may and do vary in content and style, each must contain a classroom training segment, a hands-on training segment and a hands-on evaluation segment. Each of these must be administered or supervised by a person qualified to operate a forklift. This person should also have hands-on experience operating a forklift within the current facility.

The classroom segment of the training program will cover all of the basics of forklift operation. This will include the pre-operation checklist, re-fueling, lift capacities, safe operating practices and load handling. The training must also cover any special attachments used at the current facility and any unique safety concerns. A good program will also include a written test covering all aspects of the classroom training. This will not only provide the trainer with feedback on problem areas, it may also act as documentation of training and must be kept on file.

The hands-on training segment follows the classroom training. In the hands-on training the trainee will be shown the proper method of re-fueling the forklift, how to complete the daily check list, where to turn in this documentation, and shown any potential hazards. The trainee will also be shown the proper operating procedures in all work areas with special emphasis on areas with high pedestrian traffic or blind corners/intersections. During this segment the trainer will be certain the trainee is familiar with all controls as well as the lifting capacities of the machine. This segment of the training should also be documented with an evaluation form to be completed by the trainer.

The hands-on operating segment should only begin when the trainee has successfully completed the classroom segment and the hands-on training segment. The trainee will be under the close supervision of the qualified trainer and should only operate the forklift in open areas away from any pedestrians or workers. In most cases it is best for each trainee to receive individual attention during this portion of the training. The trainer will closely observe the trainee and record any areas of concern which must be covered before the person can be certified. The trainer will complete a hands-on evaluation form on each trainee. This evaluation must also be kept on file. When the trainer signs off on the hands-on evaluation s/he is certifying the operator has successfully completed all segments of the training and in their opinion is ready to independently operate a forklift within that facility.

Each operator must be re-certified every three years. Should the operator be involved in an accident or observed operating a forklift in an unsafe manner, re-training will also be required. Multiple accidents or incidents must be reviewed and a determination made concerning the operator’s ability to retain their certification.

Training materials vary from one program to the next, but each must contain the essential elements listed above. Traditional training materials were expensive, ranging in the hundreds of dollars. With the advent of digital documents, the cost of training materials have been greatly reduced. A complete training program can now be downloaded in electronic format for as little as $9.99. These documents are available for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, or in a pdf format. With such affordable options there is no excuse for any facility not to be in full compliance with all OSHA standards regarding forklift operator training.


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