All employers with forklift operations are required to have their employees trained and certified before they can work. To help protect employers and their employees from the risks associated with forklift operation, OSHA explains the minimum requirements employers must meet in its Powered Industrial Trucks standard, 1910.178(l). According to this standard, all operator training and evaluation shall be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence.
In a letter clarifying “experience,” OSHA offered this explanation:
A trainer must have the "knowledge, training, and experience" to train others how to safely operate the powered industrial truck in the employer's workplace. In general, the trainer will only have sufficient "experience" if he has the practical skills and judgment to be able to himself operate the equipment safely under the conditions prevailing in the employer's workplace. For example, if the employer uses certain truck attachments and the trainer has never operated a truck with those attachments, the trainer would not have the experience necessary to train and evaluate others adequately on the safe use of those attachments. However, the standard does not require that the trainers operate a PIT regularly (i.e., outside of their operator training duties) as part of their job function or responsibility.
It’s important to note:
It’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure each forklift operator understands safe forklift operations, which is demonstrated through training and OSHA-approved testing.
OSHA does not provide training or certification.
Not just anyone can conduct forklift training.
There are two effective ways to provide forklift training.
Hire an outside training provider. Truck manufacturers, unions, health and safety organizations, such as the National Safety Council local chapters, private consultants with expertise in powered industrial trucks, and local trade and vocational schools are some available resources.
Have an in-house trainer. With this option, employers need to verify that the employee can do the job by testing the trainer in writing. You must also make sure the employee can drive the forklift and train on OSHA standards.
According to OSHA, forklift training must consist of three parts:
Formal instruction can be given using lectures, discussions, interactive computer learning, videos, or written material. The formal instruction does not have to occur in an actual classroom.
Practical, hands-on training covers demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee.
The trainer must evaluate the operator's ability to handle the truck safely in the workplace. Required training topics are specified in the standards.
Employers must certify that the training and evaluation have been done. Each operator's performance must be evaluated every three years. Refresher training is required whenever one of the following occurs:
the operator is involved in an accident or near-miss incident;
the operator has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner;
the operator has been determined in an evaluation to need more training;
there are changes in the workplace that could affect safe operation (such as a different type of paving, reconfigured storage racks, or new layouts with narrower aisles or restricted visibility); or
the operator is assigned to a different kind of truck.
Not meeting the proper OSHA forklift certification requirements puts your business in jeopardy of costly fines and legalities. Additionally, employees without the right forklift certification could hurt the productivity of your business. Employees who don’t have the knowledge and skills to operate forklifts safely and correctly are more likely to cause accidents, damage equipment and other structures, not perform necessary maintenance or inspections, and may not be able to work efficiently.
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