OSHA Forklift Training Requirements

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Will online forklift training certify me to drive a forklift?Conceptual image of a forklift carrying a question mark

Will online forklift training help me get a job as a forklift driver?

Can I certify my employees to drive forklifts using SafetySkills online forklift safety courses?

Here’s the deal

We get questions like these at SafetySkills all the time. We want to help our customers get the answers they need – but we believe in being upfront and honest because we don’t want to mislead anyone!

The truth is: don’t believe the “certification” hype!

If you are interested in being a “certified” forklift operator, read the next sentence VERY carefully.

You cannot be certified to drive a forklift by ANY online vendor.

OSHA doesn’t certify training providers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires forklift operators to be trained, and requires employers to “certify” that an operator has been properly trained and evaluated. As a rule, OSHA is not in the business of certifying, accrediting or even approving trainers or training programs, whether they’re delivered in a classroom or online. The lone exception to this rule is OSHA’s 10- and 30-hour outreach programs. On the other hand, OSHA is in the business of compliance.

In taking this stance, OSHA moves the burden of “certification” to the employer. Employers are completely responsible for the training, evaluation, and yes “certification” of their employees. No outside training content provider can certify forklift operators. They can guarantee that their training meets OSHA standards, and can verify that an employee completed the training, but only the employer can certify that the employee has received all necessary training for their particular job duties and is competent to perform them safely. To put it plainly and in OSHA terms, when it comes to employee training, “the employer shall so certify.”

OSHA forklift training requirements

OSHA requires forklift operator training to include 3 sections:

  • Formal instruction (necessary background information delivered by book, lecture, video, software, or similar training materials) – This can be done online
  • Practical training (hands-on instruction, live demonstrations, and practice exercises on the forklift while under direct supervision of the trainer) – This cannot be done online
  • Evaluation of the operator’s performance in the workplace – This cannot be done online

If you are interested in being a “certified” forklift operator, you should know that you cannot be fully certified to drive a forklift by ANY online vendor.

Formal instructionScreenshot of SafetySkills interactive forklift simulation

The formal instruction or “classroom” portion CAN be delivered online. SafetySkills online courses are a fast and cost-effective way to complete the bulk of your training program. However, OSHA also requires hands-on instruction and in-person evaluation of operator performance in the workplace. Obviously this cannot be performed online. A live evaluator must provide in-person training and must observe the employee operating a forklift before the training requirements have been completed.

Fortunately, OSHA has a very broad definition of who qualifies as an evaluator. Any person in the workplace who has knowledge, training and experience can provide hands-on instruction and evaluation. This means there is no good reason for any employee to be untrained! All it takes is solid formal training from a qualified source and an experienced employee to fill in the gaps and do on-site evaluation.

So get online today and check out the SafetySkills forklift courses for yourself or your employees. Operators can learn the basics at their own pace, and employers only need to worry about teaching what they know best. This blended approach provides the most complete training in the least amount of time and at the lowest cost.

Forklift training FAQ

What are OSHA’s forklift training requirements?

OSHA has several requirements for forklift operator training and certification, including requirements for both classroom and hands-on training. Get the full scoop about OSHA’s forklift training requirements here.

Why is training important?

Training is required by law. OSHA requires that all worked be trained and certified before driving a forklift, even if forklift driving is a very small part of their job. Training is also proven to reduce accidents and injuries. OSHA estimates that approximately 77% of forklift accidents could have been prevented with proper training.

Will SafetySkills online forklift operator courses certify me to drive a forklift?

Don’t believe the certification hype. NO online vendor can completely certify you to drive a forklift. But SafetySkills can help you complete the classroom portion of your training at your own pace and for an affordable price, saving time and helping you get certified faster with our OSHA-compliant series of forklift-operator training courses.

Do forklift operators need a certificate, wallet card, or other ID?

Certificate showing completion of SafetySkills Forklift Operator Training - FundamentalsBecause there is no official forklift operator training course and no OSHA certification, forklift operators are not required to have any sort of official certificate or ID proving their certification. Employers are responsible for “certifying” that their employees are trained and have been evaluated, so it is the employer’s responsibility to keep and maintain training records.

Many employers do choose to provide certificates, ID cards, badge stickers or similar items when an employee has finished training. These items can be useful for helping to keep track of who is trained, and to show that the employer takes training seriously. In addition, many online and in-person training courses will offer a certificate that shows they have completed the classroom portion of their training. Employees can use these certificates to prove to current or potential employers that they have already completed a substantial part of their training and are ready to move on to the final stage. Again these certificates are not required, but many people find them useful for documenting their training.

SafetySkills does provide a printable certificate at the end of our Forklift Operator training course. This certificate will show that the course has been successfully completed, and can be used to document your training progress for your employer. These certificates should not be mistaken for an official forklift operator certification.

Do forklift operators need to be re-trained every 3 years?

OSHA does not require retraining on any sort of set schedule, only when conditions change. Additional training or refresher training is required when:

  • The operator is assigned a new type of forklift
  • The operator is assigned to a new work location or conditions in the current work location change
  • The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss, or has been observed to operate the forklift in an unsafe manner
  • The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that he or she is not operating the forklift safely

That last bullet point is where the confusion can come in. OSHA does require that the employer evaluate the operator’s performance at least once every three years. If the evaluation shows that the operator needs refresher training, then it must be provided.

What is the OSHA Training Institute? Do they certify forklift operators?

The OSHA Training Institute (OTI) is a division of OSHA located in Pennsylvania that delivers training for compliance officers. It is primarily intended to train employees of OSHA and related state-level OSH agencies, though it is available to personnel from other federal agencies and even private sector compliance officers on a space available basis. OTI does NOT train or certify forklift operators OR forklift trainers.

OTI Education Centers are non-profit organizations authorized to offer occupational safety and health training to the public on behalf of OSHA. They offer several OSHA-approved courses, and often also offer their own training content as well. Forklift operator training is NOT currently one of the approved OSHA topics. Some OTI Education Centers may offer their own forklift operator training courses, but these are not endorsed by OSHA. They are generally comparable to forklift training offered by any for-profit training company.

OSHA does not provide forklift training. OSHA does not certify forklift operators. OSHA does not endorse any forklift training programs or vendors.

Where can I learn more about Forklift Safety?

We recommend you start with OSHA’s Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift) eTool

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