Should Forklift Operators Be Trained and Certified on Every Model of Forklift They Will Be Operating?

Hyster 70 Forklift                                                               Hyster 135 Forklift

Is Training Forklift Operators on Every Model of Forklift Needed?

Many facilities use numerous types and models of forklifts. While employees often feel that once they are certified on one forklift they should be qualified to operate any of them; is that really the case?

1910.178(l)(i) states that “The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in this paragraph.”

The June 15, 1999 Federal letter of standard interpretation explains this to mean that the operator must be trained on each “type” of forklift. For example, a sit-down counterbalanced rider truck, an order picker, and a rough terrain forklift are all different types and would require different training and evaluation.

Where some employers can run into trouble is when their training program focuses only on the types of forklifts used in production. Then later, maintenance has some special project and they rent a telehandler without realizing that it is a different type of forklift that requires specialized training.

OSHA does not require additional training on the operation of different models of the same type of forklift unless there are other “topics which are applicable to the safe operation of the truck in the employer’s workplace.” Even that is a little vague.

Keep in mind that OSHA rules are merely the minimum standard that employers must comply with. You should consider developing your own best practices. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that you have two different models of a Hyster sit-down counterbalanced forklift. While OSHA rules would imply that you would only need to train and certify on one model the question becomes (1) what are the differences between the two models and (2) does it make sense to provide training on those differences? You can only answer those questions after comparing the two operator manuals. There may be differences in fuel types, transmissions, Monotrol pedal, controls, warning labels, and other features (including that yellow light on the dash) that you will want your forklift operators to understand how they function in order to prevent damage to the forklift.

One day a “certified forklift operator” climbed on a forklift and asked me for assistance when he couldn’t figure out how to release the parking brake. That told me that you can’t assume that your employees know how each part of the forklift operates even between different models. Therefore a best practice would be to train on those differences.

Bruce Hulberg June 16, 2015

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