How did you learn to use a forklift?

by Andrew Stieneke
May 7, 2019

My first experience using a forklift came with about 15 seconds of instruction by a coworker – he pointed out what the three different control levers did, and said “get to work.” And then I was off, carting 2000 pound pallets around a cluttered warehouse and up and down ramps on a forklift with no working horn and very sketchy brakes. It is a miracle that I didn’t kill anyone.

The forklift I used at my prior workplace – complete with deadly 2000 pound pallet on the forks.

About a year later, I had my first formal forklift training – and learned a ton of information about my forklift and how I should use it. I had been using the forklift unsafely for MONTHS, because I didn’t know any better.

Did you know? On average, 85 people die every year in forklift accidents. Another 35,000 accidents cause serious injury. A further 60,000 accidents cause non-serious injuries. Considering there are less than a million forklifts in use in the US – that means over 10% of all forklifts in the country will be involved in some sort of accident each year. That statistic is staggering!

Example of what a Forklift Certification Card looks like. Every person driving a forklift must have one of these cards on their person when they drive a forklift – otherwise there is risk of an OSHA citation.

We routinely speak with clients who didn’t realize OSHA’s strict requirements for forklift training. Each person using a forklift at work:

  • Must be trained in a course that includes classroom instruction, a written test, and a driving test
  • Must be certified by someone who has the knowledge, training, and experience to train and evaluate the competence of a forklift driver
  • Has to be retrained every 3 years, or in any case when a driver has been in a forklift accident or near-miss, or has been observed to drive a forklift in an unsafe manner.
  • Must be trained on the specific type of forklift they are using.

That’s right, forklift certification only lasts for 3 years.

And a worker with experience on one type of forklift must be re-trained if they start using a different type of forklift.  I was certified to use a Class IV warehouse forklift – but that doesn’t mean it would be ok for me to start using a Class VII all-terrain construction forklift without taking another class, because those two types of lift trucks are totally different.

It is imperative that anyone driving a forklift is trained to do so. Not only can it save you money in OSHA fines – it can keep someone from serious injury or death. If you need to schedule a forklift class, send me an email or call us at (919.329.0006) and we’ll send one of our qualified instructors to train your crew ASAP.