Most industrial operations require that forklift operators, or powered industrial lift truck operators, be certified by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA certification insures that a forklift operator can do his job more safely and efficiently. Many industries, companies, and insurance providers require that forklift operators, as well as other construction or general industry workers, be OSHA certified.
The operator can be trained on the job by a certified trainer, or attend a course at a trade school. If an operator opts to take an individual online certification course, he'll still need to be evaluated by a qualified trainer for the hands-on part of the certification process.
There are several steps that need to be followed when certifying a forklift operator.
1. Decide whether you will find a company that can provide an instructor to offer an OSHA-compliant course. An alternative is to consider taking an OSHA Outreach Training Program Course, which will teach you to certify forklift operators yourself.
2. If you decide to certify the operators yourself, complete an authorized OSHA trainer course in either the construction industry or general industry. The courses are one week long, and are given by the OSHA Training Institute and the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers located around the country. Your authorization will allow you to issue certification cards, and is good for two to four years. To renew your authorization, you'll need to take an update course.
3. Set up and conduct classroom work for the forklift operators. The classroom part of the training takes at least four hours. It focuses on specific health and safety concerns the operator needs to be aware of, as well as legislation and penalties related to OSHA regulations.
4. Evaluate the operator's performance on the classroom work by administering the OSHA forklift certification exam.
5. Execute the hands-on training for the forklift operators. The training usually includes navigating through obstacle courses, and demonstrating proper use of the forklift's controls to lift and lower materials, as well as practical knowledge of safety regulations.
6. When a forklift operator completes the classroom test with a passing grade and shows you he is competent in meeting hands-on training requirements, you can certify him as a forklift operator under OSHA certification guidelines. You'll be able to immediately hand him his certification card, which is good for three years. While it's not mandatory that the operators carry the wallet-sized certification cards on the job, it's highly recommended. Job supervisors will be able to identify who's certified, and insurance company or OSHA officials can monitor the employer's compliance record.
Taking the time to complete the certification requirements can make a forklift operator more valuable to his current employer and to future employers too. A certified operator generally receives a higher hourly wage, and has a skill that employers are looking for. The certification also helps the operator keep up with developments in the field through continued professional development.
OSHA certification should be renewed every three years with a refresher course. An operator who moves to a different piece of forklift equipment, or who has had an accident or a near-miss, or is seen operating a forklift in an unsafe manner, should also take a refresher course.
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