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Course 725 - Powered Industrial Truck Safety

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Operator Training

An untrained operator of a forklift can be as dangerous as an unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle.


Forklift training must be conducted by a competent person.

OSHA regulations require that the employer ensure that a forklift operator is competent to operate the forklift he or she is assigned to use. Training must be conducted by a competent person. The employer must document operator training and an evaluation of the operator’s performance while using the forklift.

Initial forklift training has three parts:

  1. Formal instruction may include a lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, videotape and/or written material (can be taken anywhere).
  2. Practical training includes hands-on demonstration(s) by the trainer and exercises by the trainee (on the model of forklift the worker will use). Trainees may operate forklifts only under direction of a competent trainer, in a learning environment where doing so will not endanger the trainee or other employees. Be sure to set up a safe training area for practice.
  3. Evaluation of the effectiveness of the training by observing the operator’s performance using the forklift should be conducted in the actual workplace. This evaluation must be repeated at least once every three years (must be at workplace each time).

Refresher training must be given if the operator has been involved in an accident, near miss or unsafe operations. Also, if an operator is assigned to a new type of forklift or if workplace conditions change that could affect safety, then refresher training is required.

1. Which of the following lists the three components of forklift training?

a. Formal instruction, practical training, and evaluation
b. Instruction, practice, and assessment
c. Informal instruction, testing, and evaluation
d. Video instruction, practical training, and analysis

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The trainee can only operate the forklift when directly supervised by a competent person.

Trainer Qualifications

The employer may use the services of a qualified third-party trainer or formally designate and authorize an employee as a competent person to conduct the training. A competent person has demonstrated competency through knowledge, training and experience to train and evaluate forklift operators.

The trainee can only operate the forklift when directly supervised by a competent person and when this would not endanger anyone.

Training Topics

Forklift operators must be trained in the operating instructions, warnings, and precautions.

Forklift operators must be trained in the operating instructions, warnings and precautions for the types of forklifts they will be authorized to use. The topics listed below must be covered when training a forklift operator. If a specific topic does not apply to the forklift in the employer’s workplace, covering it is optional.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the Forklift violations can be dangerous to workers, and lead to costly OSHA citations. Listen for some of the top forklift violations, and how to avoid them.

2. Who may conduct forklift safety training?

a. Third-party trainers or competent persons
b. Only certified safety professionals
c. Any current forklift operators
d. Only an experienced forklift operator

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General Forklift Training Topics

There are many important forklift training topics that need to be addressed.

Additional general forklift training topics include:

  • differences between the forklift and an automobile
  • vehicle controls and instrumentation: Where they are located, what they do and how they work
  • engine or motor operation
  • steering and maneuvering
  • visibility (including restrictions due to loading)
  • fork and attachment adaptation, operation and use limitations
  • vehicle capacity and stability
  • vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform
  • refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries
  • operating limitations

Workplace-Specific Training Topics

Workplace-specific training topics that should be covered include:

  • surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated
  • composition of loads to be carried and load stability
  • load manipulation, stacking and unshackling
  • pedestrian traffic where the vehicle will be operated
  • narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated
  • hazardous (classified) locations where the vehicle will be operated
  • ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle's stability
  • closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust
  • other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation
  • hands-on demonstration using the type of vehicle that the operator will actually be using
  • changes in workplace conditions that could affect safe operation (e.g., new trenches, new worker access routes, or new staging areas on construction sites)

3. Which of the following topics would be taught during workplace-specific forklift training?

a. Vehicle capacity and stability
b. Operating limitations
c. Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operating
d. Vehicle inspection and maintenance

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Refresher Training

Refresher forklift training may be required if specific situations exist.

Refresher PIT-forklift training may be required if any of the following situations exist:

  • The supervisor observes the operator driving the forklift in and unsafe manner, such as riding with the load too high or traveling at an unsafe speed.
  • The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident.
  • The operator has received an evaluation that reveals he or she is not operating the forklift safely.
  • A workplace condition changes in a way that could affect safe operation of the forklift.
  • The operator has been assigned to drive a different type of forklift.

Retraining May Not Be The Answer

In some instances, progressive discipline may be the appropriate response to observed operator performance. Retraining may not be the proper response to inadequate operator performance if any of the following situations exist:

  • The operator has successfully completed previous training, and the training is appropriate to the truck and working conditions encountered.
  • The operator has been evaluated and found competent to operate the truck safely.
  • The supervisor determines that adequate training, resources, and other support has been provided.
  • The employee is engaging in horseplay while driving the forklift.

Retraining Topics

Retraining may include some or all of the following information, as necessary:

  • common unsafe situations encountered in the workplace
  • unsafe operating methods observed or known to be used
  • the need for constant attentiveness to the vehicle, the workplace conditions, and the manner in which the vehicle is operated

4. Which of the following situations may require forklift retraining?

a. A new forklift operator has been hired
b. An operator must drive a different type of forklift
c. An employee has taken on forklift operator duties
d. A year has gone by since initial training

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Performance Test for Forklift Operators

Prior to qualifying an operator, it’s important to evaluate performance to determine any areas of deficiency in knowledge or skills.

refresher training
It’s important to evaluate performance to determine any areas of deficiency in knowledge or skills.

Here is a sample performance checklist for use in the evaluation phase of operator qualification. You should include this evaluation as part of the operator certification. The operator must perform each of the actions below to the satisfaction of the evaluator to qualify. Any areas of deficiency in knowledge or skills must result in operator retraining.

Operator Certification

The employer should formally certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated. The employer should do the following to properly document the training.

The employer should formally certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated.
  • The written certification should include, at a minimum, 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.
  • The operator must have been evaluated in the current workplace within the last three years.
  • If the operator had previous forklift training, the employer must document that the training covered the required topics described above.

Maintaining Records

The employer must keep a record that shows that each forklift operator has been trained. We recommend keeping training records for as long as the operator is employed plus at least five additional years or as the employer deems appropriate.

5. To be certified as a forklift operator, he or she must have been evaluated in the current workplace _____.

a. within the last five years
b. by a certified safety professional
c. within the last three years
d. by a safety manager or staff member

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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