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Forklift Training Program

Department of Labor statistics show that employers lose nearly 20,000 workdays each year from employee injuries sustained on or around forklifts. Even more alarming, one hundred people lose their lives each year in forklift-related accidents. One way to help prevent these accidents is to train all operators on the hazards associated with forklifts and evaluate each operator's performance on a regular basis. 

Initial Training 

According to OSHA, operator training must occur before an employee is permitted to operate any forklift. Training should consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, videotape), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee) and evaluation of the operator's performance.

Knowledgeable and experienced employees should be the only employees permitted to conduct training and evaluations. Forklift safety videos can also be used as a training tool, if an experienced employee is available to answer questions regarding the video's content. 

OSHA requires forklift training sessions to be documented with the name of the trainee, name of the trainer and the date of training. 

Training Program Content 

An OSHA compliant forklift training session includes topics related to forklifts and the workplace. 

Forklift-related topics include: 

  • Operating instructions, warnings and precautions for the types of forklifts the operator will be authorized to operate
  • Differences between forklifts and automobiles
  • Forklift 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
  • Refueling and/or charging of batteries
  • Operating limitations 

Workplace-related topics include: 

  • Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated
  • Load stability, manipulation, stacking and unstacking
  • Pedestrian traffic areas
  • Narrow aisles and other restricted places
  • Hazardous 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
  • Any other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation 

Refresher Training 

Refresher training should be provided to a forklift operator when the operator is observed operating in an unsafe manner, is involved in an accident or near-hit incident, receives an unsatisfactory evaluation or is assigned to a different type of forklift. Refresher training should also occur any time a condition in the workplace changes and affects safe operation of the forklift. 

Operator Evaluation 

OSHA requires that an evaluation of each forklift operator's performance be conducted at least once every three years. This evaluation should include a discussion with the operator regarding their experience with the forklift, an observation of the employee operating the forklift and written documentation that the evaluation was performed. Many companies use a checklist to complete the operator evaluation. A checklist could include items such as: 

  • Surveys forklift for damage each shift
  • Mounts properly using three points of contact
  • Picks up the load safely and observes capacity limits
  • Travels with the load at a safe height
  • Maintains a safe speed
  • Slows down when cornering and sounds horn when necessary
  • Places load safely and securely
  • Parks the forklift in a safe location
  • Demonstrates the proper fueling or battery charging procedure
  • Checks that wheels are chocked before entering trailer 

Be sure to document all operator evaluations, including the name of the operator, the date of the evaluation and the name of the person performing the evaluation. 

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