Safe and Efficient Lift Truck Operation

Whether you’re on a construction site, in the warehouse, down on the docks or working in a manufacturing plant, a forklift is an essential tool for keeping products moving. While countless industries across the region and around the globe rely on forklifts to help with the daily heavy lifting, are these integral pieces of machinery actually being used efficiently and safely? Will forklift drivers operate efficiently and safely without training? For those who take the time to thoroughly analyze business operations, the importance of proper forklift training becomes abundantly clear. 

Infographic on 18 safety tips when operating a lift truck

Since its invention, the lift truck has helped businesses become more productive. While these incredibly useful machines are built to perform modern wonders, the drivers who sit or stand on them remain ultimately responsible for making it all happen. For this reason alone, it is absolutely crucial for employers to hire and provide training for personnel who operate the company’s material handling equipment. 

The Fundamentals of Forklift Training 

Failure to provide forklift certification for employees who operate lift trucks can be a costly mistake. If you question whether you should mandate that all applicable employees earn their forklift operator licenses, consider a few fundamental reasons why supplying proper training is incredibly important to the success of your business.  

1. Trained lift truck drivers are more productive. 

From knowing the correct method to load a lift truck to learning professional techniques that limit costly errors, workers who possess a forklift operator license have been trained in the most efficient ways. Certified forklift drivers carry more loads per hour, cause fewer accidents and create less damage in the workplace. Providing top-quality forklift training directly equates to greater productivity. 

2. Workers trained to operate forklifts help maintain your fleet. 

Today’s fork lift trucks produced by leading manufacturers are built to last, but only when they are expertly operated and maintained. Workers who receive forklift certification not only learn to operate the machines, but they are also instructed on how to recognize when a lift truck needs service or how to perform basic maintenance. They also learn what a lift truck can and cannot do, so they are easily able to get the most out of the forklift without putting it into damaging circumstances. Due to repairs and upkeep, this equates to a longer lifespan for your lift trucks with reduced downtime and expenses.

3. Forklift certification equals a safer work environment. 

Industrial facilities, warehouses and construction sites are already potentially dangerous enough without the presence of improperly trained employees operating heavy equipment. A major component to the certification process for lift truck drivers is learning how to operate safely in a wide range of conditions. Accidents involving unsafe forklift operation account for numerous preventable deaths and nearly 100,000 injuries per year. Trained employees dramatically reduce the likelihood of incidents, as operators are taught to properly use the safety features of the machines — they are also taught to follow comprehensive procedures for maintaining a safe workplace.  

4. Forklift training is mandatory. 

If you’re currently allowing untrained employees to operate forklifts onsite, your business is likely out of compliance. All forklift operators must be certified to operate any and all lift trucks they use on the job. While an employee can come to you with outside certification or training from a previous employer, they must produce documentation. If not, you, as the employer, are required to provide training.

OSHA Forklift Certification 

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) sets the standards for providing Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training. Employers utilizing lift trucks in the workplace, or many other types of industrial machines, must be in compliance with OSHA guidelines. The key points of the program are as follows:

  • Employers are responsible for supplying a forklift certification program based on general principles of industrial truck operation and general safety standards. The program includes both formal and practical training and evaluation.
  • Certification programs must provide training for the individual types of lift trucks being operated as well as the specific safety concerns and hazards that result from using forklifts in the workplace
  • Training and evaluation should be conducted by individuals with the knowledge and expertise of the trucks, its operations and OSHA standards. Trainers typically have a certificate, forklift operator license and/or extensive knowledge and experience. 
  • Training can be obtained by an outside organization or from a previous employer; however, documentation must be provided that confirms the appropriate certifications. 
  • Employers must award and/or keep on file certification documentation in the operator’s name. This documentation lists pertinent information such as the date training and evaluation were performed, and the individual or organization that provided the training.

What You Should Know About Forklift Training

If you plan to conduct forklift training within your company, it’s important to plan and create programs that have safety and efficiency at their core — this type of training will help your business increase productivity as well. 

Here are a few things you should know: 

  • Employers must conduct training and evaluation for each certified operator at least once every three years. 
  • Forklift operators must be trained on each different type of truck they operate. 
  • There is no standard test for training, nor does the OSHA require forklift operators to be licensed. 
  • Retraining and evaluation are necessary if the operator has an accident or is observed and evaluated unsafely operating a lift truck.
  • Refresher training is also required when an employee must operate a different machine than they were originally certified to drive. And if the work environment changes in some way, it also presents new safety concerns. 

Creating a Forklift Certification Program

Businesses are undoubtedly responsible for providing a training program for employees operating lift trucks. Some of the challenges of meeting OSHA compliance involve creating a certification program that adheres to the established standards, is administered by appropriately trained or licensed instructors, and is customized to the forklifts being used and the environment in which they are being used. Prohibitive factors also include the allocation of resources, such as the time and money needed to create such programs and efficient management of logistics. Employers not only need to keep track of the status of personnel currently certified to operate specific lift trucks, they must also supply necessary refresher courses, stay abreast of changes in regulations and maintain accurate records. 

Alternative Lift Truck Training  

Employers eager to comply with OSHA standards for lift truck certification and ongoing training have many options in addition to creating their own in-house program. You can choose to only hire forklift operators who are already certified by the union, a training organization or previous employer. However, in such cases, it is still necessary to continually evaluate operators and provide refresher courses for your site.

Working with an outside provider, such as McCall Handling Company, is another option for businesses currently without a training program in place. If you choose to outsource your forklift-training program, be sure to look for an organization that can do the following: 

  • Deliver training that adheres to and is based on OSHA standards.
  • Manage the entire process on an ongoing basis. 
  • Demonstrate expertise in the complete range of lift trucks on the market.
  • Offer classroom and evaluation space in close proximity to your business and employees. 
  • Provide a knowledgeable instructor who possesses a forklift operator license, or applicable certification and experience.  

Invest in Your Company’s Future With Lift Truck Training

The cost of employing properly trained and licensed lift truck operators pays for itself in many ways. Not only do you remain compliant to local rules and regulations, but you can also maximize the lifespan of your business’ fleet, increase productivity and eliminate most avoidable injuries in the workplace. 

Whether you’re currently creating your own in-house forklift certification program or plan on contracting a training provider, the time for action is now. Every moment you wait increases the risk of having unqualified employees operating potentially dangerous heavy machinery. 

Do you have a question about lift truck training or want to know how to obtain your forklift operator license? The experts at McCall are here to help. We’ve been serving the forklift and lift truck needs of companies throughout Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia for over 65 years. Give us a call toll-free at 888-870-0685 or contact us online to learn more about our products and services, and find out about our forklift certification and training programs today!