Industrial Powered Lift Trucks, more commonly known as forklifts, are widely used in industry, distribution and logistics. They are designed to handle heavy loads of raw materials and goods safely and efficiently. There are numerous designs and styles of forklifts for specific duties and working conditions. While all of these machines are designed off a basic principal, each has its own unique characteristics, controls, and limitations. For this reason forklifts operators must be properly trained in the operation of the specific vehicles they are to operate.
OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Association requires training of machine operators, but does not provide specific training materials. The training program can be written and operated by the employer but must contain three separate elements in order to meet the OSHA training guidelines.
The first element of the training is classroom training. This segment must cover several factors. Training materials can include verbal presentation, video, PowerPoint, and audio materials as well as manuals and other written materials. Items which must be covered are the basic operation of the forklift, re-fueling, how to complete daily check-list, and pedestrian safety issues. A written exam is not required, but is advisable. Employers should attempt to document the training process as much as possible. Documentation tends to make the trainees take the training more seriously and can be very helpful if issues arise concerning training or the needed proof of training.
The second portion of the training program involves hands-on training with the specific machine the trainee will be operating if certified. This portion of the testing, as well as the third portion must be administered by a person with reasonable knowledge of the forklift and materials being covered in the training. This portion of the training will familiarize the trainee in the proper method to complete the daily check list, re-fuel the machine as well as any unique features of the machine. The trainee must also become comfortable with the location of the controls, their uses, and all safety aspects of the machine. This may include seat-belts, fall protection, and other personal protective equipment required by the employer.
The final portion of the training allows the trainee to operate the machine for which they are being certified. During the first portion of this training the trainer will be present at all times to observe the operation of the machine, answer questions and offer input for improvement. Once the instructor feels the trainee has the ability to operate the machine the trainee will be allowed to operate the machine independently. During this period the instructor will continually check on the trainee to be certain all safety procedures are being followed and the forklift is being operated in accordance with the training the operator received.
When the instructor feels the new operator posses the skills to work independently the operator will be considered certified. While not letter of certification is required, it once again allows for proper documentation. This certification remains in effect for a period of three years. At the end of that time the operator must be re-certified. If the operator is involved in an accident or observed operating the machine in an unsafe manner, the operator must undergo refresher training very similar to the original training provided.