Setting the Record Straight on Forklift Training

Federal regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require forklift operators to be trained and certified before they can begin their duties behind the wheel. But requirements for forklift training programs are frequently misunderstood.

Many times I am asked if MANCOMM's forklift operator training programs are certified by OSHA, but OSHA does not certify forklift training programs. You will not find the words 'OSHA-certified powered industrial truck training' in OSHA's 1910 General Industry or 1926 Construction regulations. Forklift trainers can say that their programs are OSHA-compliant, but not OSHA-certified.

OSHA's regulations clearly spell out who can train forklift operators and how they can do it. When selecting a forklift training program, you need to be sure it follows the regulations set up by OSHA.

OSHA regulations state, "The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely" [regulation 1910.178(l)(1)(i)] and that training must be supervised by "persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators and evaluate their competence." [1910.178(l)(2)(i)(A)] The regulations also state, "Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace." [1910.178(l)(2)(ii)]

Violations of OSHA forklift regulations are a common problem in American industry. On the list of the top 10 most frequently cited federal OSHA standards for 2010, No. 8 is 1910.178: Powered Industrial Trucks. The OSHA website states that most forklift-related employee injuries and property damage "can be attributed to lack of safe operating procedures, lack of safety-rule enforcement, and insufficient or inadequate training."

Forklift operator training must be personalized to the equipment and workplace involved, and so an effective training program must take those factors into consideration.

Training must address the operating instructions, warnings, precautions and other specifics for the types of truck the operator will be driving. Also, worksite specifics must cover a wide variety of factors, including surface conditions, composition of loads to be carried, pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated, potentially hazardous environmental conditions, and much more.

For any forklift training program to succeed, it must be part of a progressive, companywide safety culture. Safety training should never be treated as something a company needs to 'get over with,' like a tedious chore. Greater safety awareness leads to fewer work-related illnesses and accidents, which in turn means lower insurance costs and medical expenditures. Plus, a decrease in accident-related downtime results in an increase in productivity, which leads to a better bottom line. A positive attitude toward safety always pays off in the long run.

For information on MANCOMM's forklift operator training programs for both General Industry and Construction, English and Spanish, visit

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