So You Want to be a Forklift Operator?

Forklifts are fun to watch because they seem to float around with their heavy burdens without any effort. When in the hands of a skilled operator, they seem to move improbably heavy loads without the slightest effort. However, it is hard work to be a good forklift operator. This is because you need to have a lot of practice, and you may not realize it, but you also need official training and certification.

OSHA, Forklift Training, and You

It doesn’t matter if you have been using the forklift at your workplace since you were a teenager, if you don’t have forklift certification you should not be using that equipment at all. This is because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, usually just called OSHA, demands that formal forklift training and certification be required of anyone using such equipment.

Now, keep in mind that forklift certification may not cost the forklift operator anything “out of pocket” because they may receive it through their employer, but that is not always the case. You may find that you need to attend an OSHA compliant trade school’s formal training program.

Remember too that OSHA has a few ways of viewing forklift training. There is the industry specific forklift certification that those who do the training programs must receive. That means that they will get training as construction or general forklift training providers.

For those who get the training, it is both industry and forklift specific. Consider that you should really train per each variety of forklift or truck. This is per OSHA suggestions, and it is because there are so many issues associated with each type. There are sit down trucks, stand up models, order picker styles, pallet jacks and more.

Of course, OSHA doesn’t mean you have to train by manufacturer, just overall design so that you are clear on how best to use each machine, and how to use the essential controls of most models.

So, when you are considering forklift jobs and the appropriate forklift license to pursue, do keep in mind that you need to be clear about the specifics. Your firm will usually know which forklift truck to train you to use, and this may be due to the simple fact that you have used it already or will be using one type exclusively.

Is that where it ends? No, at least, not always.

Further Training for the Use of Forklifts

To officially use a forklift on a day to day basis, you will need your OSHA certification, plus you need to get any additional training that is required for a forklift driver handling harmful or dangerous materials, or working in a specific setting.

For example, you may learn how to use a forklift in a warehouse, and know that you won’t ever go anywhere else to do your job. However, your warehouse might have a lot of potentially harmful compounds that cannot be released into the air or mixed accidentally by dropping a palette, etc. So, you may need OSHA training in the handling of toxic substances as well.

Apart from the forklift safety and the proper certification (and re-certification every three years) you may want to know a bit about the overall industry too. For instance, an experienced driver can earn around $20 per hour. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not expect any growth in the overall industry, but does point out that warehouses seem to be the spots with the most growth potential. The work is deemed a hazardous occupation by the Fair Labor Standards Act, but any of the risks are offset by the high level of training that is done through OSHA compliant courses and opportunities.

In other words, when you train properly, you will enjoy your career as a certified forklift operator.