Forklift Certification Classes: The Breakdown, Content, and Delivery Methods

When it comes to career paths with plenty of opportunities, the possibility of a lucrative salary, and plenty of upward mobility, there are few that really compare with becoming a forklift operator. You’ll have job opportunities in an incredibly wide range of industries, with companies large and small all across the nation. However, in order to start this path, you’ll need to take and pass forklift certification classes. Not sure what’s involved, what you will have to do, or even why these classes are needed? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know below.

Why Are Forklift Certification Classes Necessary?

Forklift training is necessary for many reasons, but one of the most important is safety. Forklifts are heavy equipment. They can cause immense amounts of damage to other vehicles, products, merchandise, and building structures. They can be deadly, as well. Like many other professionals, forklift operators are required by law to be trained prior to operating a forklift.

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When Is Training Necessary?

OSHA spells out the requirements for forklift certification classes. In their guidelines, it is stated that all training is the responsibility of the employer. This means that, ultimately, it is up to your employer to ensure you receive training before you are allowed to operate a forklift or other related piece of equipment. In addition, OSHA requires training in a couple of other cases.

Re-Certification – As mentioned, forklift operators may be required to retrain every three years, depending on your jurisdiction. This ensures that you remain up to date with safety requirements and practices but also familiarizes you with any new technology that might have come to market since the last time you took these classes.

Refresher Training – Refresher training is mandated by OSHA in the case of an accident or injury caused by a forklift operator, or if you have been seen operating a forklift in an unsafe way. It is also necessary if you are assigned to operate a truck that you’ve not been certified on yet or if something within the work environment changes enough that it would require refresher training (new hazards, new physical features, etc.).

What Does Training Consist Of?

You’ll find that forklift certification classes are broken into two components. First, you have the actual classes, during which you will learn the knowledge and skills that you need to be a successful operator. The second segment involves an in-person performance evaluation. We’ll talk about both of these segments in greater detail below.

First Component – Theory Training and Evaluation

The first component of training is broken down into various topics.

Trucks: General information about the equipment will be included in forklift certification classes that you will complete. This will include topics like how to steer them, how to determine proper loading, how to refuel or recharge them, how to detach the forks and attach other implements, how to load to ensure proper visibility, how to inspect the forklift for damage or maintenance needs, the limits of the machine, and other similar topics. Other items that might be covered include:

  • Starting and stopping
  • Vehicle stability and capacity
  • Regular maintenance items
  • Forklift instruments
  • Forklift controls
  • Operating precautions pertinent to the type of forklift/truck

Environment: Additional topics in forklift certification classes will center on the work environment in which you operate the forklift. This can vary greatly. For instance, the environment within a big box retail store will be drastically different from a warehouse involved in pure logistics for international shippers. A carpet warehouse will be dramatically different from one that specializes in fresh produce. You will also cover topics such as:

  • Dealing with pedestrian traffic
  • Dealing with other vehicle/truck/forklift traffic
  • Dealing with narrow aisles
  • Dealing with narrow shelving or high racks
  • Dealing with different operating surfaces (asphalt, concrete, dirt, etc.)
  • Ensuring load stability
  • Specific hazards that might be present within the environment

Second Component: Workplace-Specific and Practical Evaluation

The second component of forklift certification classes is your in-person performance evaluation. Note that this should be done on the employer’s premises and with an employer-designated instructor or observer (a hiring manager, warehouse manager, etc.).

In-person or Online?

When you begin considering forklift certification classes, you’ll find that there are two types available – in-person classes that involve a classroom environment and online forklift certification that allows you to take the course and related tests from any Internet-connected device. Online classes are the most flexible and offer the ability to go at your own pace. They’re also much more affordable for both job applicants (free until you print the certificate at the end), as well as for employers, who can purchase courses ahead of time, and then assign them to employees as necessary.

Not sold on the idea of online forklift certification classes? There are quite a few other benefits that cannot be found with in-person learning. For instance, you may have an entire year to complete your course once you begin. That ensures you can work each class into your schedule without sacrificing personal time or work. Employers gain the benefit of knowing their employees and new hires are going through OSHA-compliant training without having to create their own in-house training program, resulting in huge time and money savings.

As you can see, there’s a lot that must be covered in forklift certification classes. An online course from a reputable training provider offers convenience, flexibility, and cost savings for all involved.