Thinking about becoming a forklift operator? It can be a lucrative career choice, with a lot of different options for employment, which ensures not only variety but the ability to pick and choose, rather than settling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs will continue to grow for this position for the next 20 years or so, with an additional 43,700 jobs being added during that time.
Of course, you’ll need to know how to get started on the right foot, and for most aspiring operators, that means knowing how to get forklift certification. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to get started, and what you need to know to understand your options.
Why Is Forklift Certification Even Necessary?
Before we explore the process of how to get forklift certification, it’s important to know why this certification is important in the first place. It’s just a forklift, right? They’re not all that complicated, so why the focus on official training and certification? Actually, there are several reasons for this.
One of the most important reasons is to reduce workplace accidents and injuries. No, operating a forklift does not require the years of study that being a nurse or doctor does, but it means running a machine that can weigh 4.5 tons in a close, tight space at speed. Not only are you operating a multi-ton vehicle, but the forks, pole, or other attachment on the front presents a very real risk of damage or injury, and it can be quite easy to overlook just how close you are to other vehicles, merchandise, building structures, and people.
Safety is an essential consideration. However, there is also the need to ensure that you’re able to operate the forklift correctly. This touches on safety, but it also applies to vehicle longevity and reliability. The incorrect operation could result in any number of issues, ranging from mechanical or electrical breakdowns to tip-over accidents due to overloading that leads to significant damage to an expensive piece of equipment (and likely destruction of the load).
Now that we’ve underscored the reasons for forklift training, let’s begin our discussion of how to get forklift certification in the first place.
Choose Your Path
The first thing you need to do is determine how you want to proceed personally. OSHA requires that all forklift operators receive adequate training and that it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure this. This means that it is within your rights to skip certification and submit your application to an employer without completing a course. However, understand that most employers want to hire those who take an active interest in furthering their career, as well as those with at least some modicum of knowledge and experience relating to forklifts and related trucks.
So, you need to choose between applying and hoping that an employer is willing to take a chance on you without certification, or you can choose to start the process on your own. Yes, you’ll only start the process. It will not be fully completed until an employer gives you an in-person performance evaluation. Understand from the outset that this evaluation is required by OSHA for valid certification, and it can only be provided by an employer, and never by a third-party organization. This is because the employer will have the necessary familiarity with their workplace and the environment in which the forklift will be operated.
Choosing Your Class Types
As you might guess, choosing to pursue certification on your own is the best option. Employers see this as a sign that you are motivated and committed to your career, and it makes it more likely that you’ll be hired over someone else. So, where do you turn to get that head start? What do you need to know about how to get forklift certification?
You will need to decide whether to pursue in-person or online forklift training. Both are available, but they are not created equal. You’ll find that in-person training puts you in a traditional classroom situation – you’ll have an instructor and other classmates. The course will move at the pace of the slowest student, and you’ll need to take time out of your life to attend classes and drive back and forth. That can be quite restrictive if the class is held a long distance from your home. You’ll also incur fuel costs, as well as wear and tear on your car.
Online forklift training is much different. The right training provider can offer classes that you will access through a PC, a laptop, or even through a tablet or smartphone. This means that you can take your classes anywhere, at any time. There’s no need to wait for class to roll around, and no need to take time out of your life to drive to a distant location to sit in a classroom for hours. You can take the course at your own pace. With the right option, you actually have 365 days from signup to complete all of the course material and take the interactive quizzes. Best of all, in some cases, you can do all of this at no cost whatsoever. You only pay after you have completed the course, and only if you choose to print the accompanying certificate.
While online courses provide students with a highly beneficial solution in how to get forklift certification, they are also of significant benefit to employers. The burden of creating, administering and monitoring training classes for forklift operators falls on the shoulders of employers. This can be time-consuming, costly and very difficult. With online courses, all of that is handled for you. The only thing you need to worry about is providing a performance evaluation for new certifications, re-certifications, and those completing refresher training.
Ultimately, the question of how to get forklift certification really comes down to whether you want to go the traditional, slow route, or take advantage of modern technology and speed up the process.