Forklifts are crucial to everyday operations, used to lift and transport heavy materials through busy warehouse floors. Because these machines can threaten the lives of the forklift operator as well as other employees, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to verify that every single forklift operator in their employ is formally certified.
That said, forklift certification requires testing, hands-on training, and recertification every few years.
Wondering how to become a professional forklift operator? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process.
What Are Forklift Certifications?
Forklift certifications are granted to operators who complete the required OSHA training, instruction, and testing. Operators who pass will receive a forklift certification card as proof of their expertise in a specific class of forklift.
The certification card is meant to be kept on the driver’s person. Should an accident occur involving a forklift, you’ll need to file an incident report as well as an OSHA Employee’s Report of Injury Form. Both of those forms will require the operator to provide their forklift certifications.
In the event of an incident, OSHA will review your training records to verify that operators are certified. If you’re unable to provide that documentation, they could levy fines up to $14,502 per violation.
Furthermore, having a certification helps protect a business from legal liability should an accident occur involving a forklift. Without that, both the vehicle operator and the business owner would be exposed to a potential negligence suit.
Why Do Forklift Certifications Matter?
OSHA dictates the rules governing forklift licensing.
Per its regulations, forklifts are potentially dangerous work-site hazards. This heavy machinery tends to weigh several tons, can reach speeds of 20mph, is slow to brake, and requires specialized instruction to operate them. In inexperienced hands, they can cause significant damage. Common accidents include:
- Pedestrians injuries
- Falling loads
- Knocking over shelves
Any one of these mishaps could result in life-threatening body injury for either the operator or employees working nearby. And, unfortunately, far too many workplace accidents occur because of inexperienced drivers—it’s estimated that 70% of forklift injuries could have been prevented with proper training.
This is why OSHA requires professional drivers to obtain a forklift operator certification—to reduce the number of injuries resulting from unsafe equipment operation.
How Do You Obtain an OSHA Forklift Operator Certification?
To apply to legally operate this heavy-duty equipment, you must be at least 18 years old. If you satisfy the age limit, you can obtain an operator certificate in a matter of weeks by following these steps:
1.Select the forklift class – There are a variety of forklift types, separated by class. To acquire your license, you’ll need to select a certification course paired to the specific class of forklift you plan to operate. That includes:
- Class I: Electric motor rider trucks
- Class II: Electric motor narrow aisle trucks
- Class III: Electric motor hand trucks or hand/rider trucks
- Class IV: Internal combustion engine trucks (solid/cushion tires)
- Class V: Internal combustion engine trucks (pneumatic tires)
- Class VI: Electric and internal combustion engine tractors
Class VII: Rough terrain forklift trucks
2. Sign up for certification class – There are several avenues for acquiring forklift certification. You can enroll in an in-person or online class that has been OSHA certified.
3. Complete testing – Having attended all of the courses, you’ll be tested on your knowledge of forklifts. Depending on the course, this will likely include several lesson quizzes and a comprehensive final exam.
4. Receive hands-on training – After you pass your final exam, you must receive hands-on training from your employer and then complete an operator performance evaluation that covers the following tasks:
- Load pickup
- Load putdowns
Fueling and recharging
5. Maintain certification – Depending on the state, a forklift operator may need to obtain forklift recertification once every two or three years.
Forklift Expertise at Value Forklifts
Before you can get behind the wheel of a forklift truck, you must be properly educated, trained, and tested according to OSHA’s certification standards. Once you have satisfied these requirements, you’ll be prepared to safely operate this heavy machinery.
But what if you don’t have a forklift to drive?
That’s where Value Forklifts, your equipment trader, can assist. We offer an array of high-quality, reconditioned, gas, diesel, and electric-powered forklifts.
So, if you’re looking to sell, buy, or trade, let’s talk.