Forklift Training Programs and Requirements

Forklift operators use forklifts to pick up and transport materials. Forklift operators often work in warehouses, factories or distribution centers that produce or store large pallets of goods. Forklift certification is preferred or required by most industrial employers.

Training Requirements and Recommendations

A high school diploma or GED certificate is required to become a forklift operator. Training programs consist of forklift operation certification courses, which are offered by employers or outside organizations, including the American Red Cross. Career prospects are best for forklift operators with at least one year of experience.

Forklift operators, in addition to transporting goods, are often responsible for maintaining an accurate inventory and labeling goods as they are stored and transported. They are responsible for using inventory and billing computer programs to keep an accurate database of business transactions. In some warehouses, forklift operators load and unload delivery trucks. Forklift operators should have extensive knowledge of workplace safety policies and procedures and are required to perform routine safety checks. They should be in good physical condition in order to lift materials and stand for long periods of time.

Formal Education

Most forklift operators enroll in a forklift certification course. Though some technical or vocational schools may offer extended certificate programs, most training programs consist of one or two day-long courses.

Certification courses cover proper forklift operation techniques, loading and unloading practices, emergency prevention and response, hazardous material transportation and the principles of warehouse and inventory leadership. In forklift operation certification courses, students gain practical, if limited, experience with a forklift.

Job Experience

Employers typically hire forklift operators with 1 - 3 years of forklift operation and warehouse experience. Entry-level opportunities are available to forklift operators with certification and less than one year of experience. Some employers may require forklift operators to have additional experience in inventory management or hazardous materials transportation.

Licenses and Certifications

Forklift operators are not legally required to be licensed or certified. However, employers generally prefer to hire forklift operators with certification or the ability to become certified within several months of employment. Employers who hire uncertified forklift operators typically offer in-house certification courses that comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification standards.

Certification is usually good for two years. Some certification courses may need to be retaken in the event of forklift accidents or changes in an employer's forklift operation policies and procedures. When employers change the type of forklifts or lift trucks they use, additional certification courses may be necessary.

Workshops and Seminars

Forklift operation workshops and seminars are typically the same as certification courses. Because certification courses are relatively short-term, lasting no more than one or two days, workshops are typically the main source of training and education for forklift operators. Workshops may be offered by employers, technical schools or safety organizations.

Additional Professional Development

Professional development information is available from OSHA and forklift operation employers. OSHA is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor and provides a wealth of safety and workplace information for all types of industrial professionals. Forklift operators can find information on current safety legislation, resources for continuing education and safety newsletters.

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