OSHA Forklift Safety: What Are the Rules and How Do I Comply?

Forklifts can be dangerous and even fatal if you’re not qualified to operate them. According to the government regulated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift rollover accounts for 25% of forklift-related deaths.

Countless types of industries require forklift operators. Throughout the field, however, there are standardized rules, regulations, and even a certification process necessary to safely operate forklifts.

Get Your Forklift Certification

OSHA forklift safety rules set the industry standard for the operation of powered industrial trucks. The agency set the minimum age of certified forklift operators to 18. Almost always, operators have a checklist incorporating a bevy of items and processes to be performed prior to forklift operation.

OSHA Forklift Safety Checklist

Each time an operator uses a forklift, OSHA requires a thorough pre-shift check of relevant equipment. Manufacturers have a list for each make and model of forklift, but powered industrial truck operators will see some of the same prompts regardless of type.

Tires and tire pressure always require visual and instrumental checks prior to use. Radiator coolant must be measured, as well. Battery levels, including electrolyte levels, will also require pre-use inspection. Another crucial safety check is a visual inspection of all engine belts.

When it comes to OSHA forklift safety, don’t leave anything to chance!

What might seem like a minor issue can be imperative to pre-use forklift safety checks. Hydraulic belts, headlights, and even a nameplate that matches the instruction manual must be checked for operation and accuracy.

The pre-use checklist is part of a process that powered industrial truck operators must perform in order to use forklifts. You will also find fluid checks part of the powered industrial truck safety list. After the pre-start list, you will also do several necessary tests after the motor is engaged and running.

Forklift Motor On Checks

Just because your engine is running doesn’t mean you’re ready to go!

Check your parking brakes after the forklift’s motor is on. The horn, battery discharge, and hoisting and lowering control are also part of the “motor on” checks and tests.

Test the functions of all forklift instruments and monitors before you turn the engine on. Investigate any unusual discharges, noises, or service needed lights. It’s the only way to be 100 percent OSHA compliant.

Checklists will have spaces for “functioning” or “functioning smoothly” demarcations. Make sure you complete these before operating a powered industrial truck. This will decrease your liability and maintain your certification.

Why Forklift Certification?

OSHA requires education and certification before letting you loose on a job site to be a forklift operator or powered industrial truck user. Mostly, this is due to a large number of forklift accidents each year that happen because of misoperation. Businesses can only hire and use certified forklift operators, which in turn reduces on-the-job injuries and unnecessary deaths.

You can choose to complete your OSHA forklift course training online or in person, but there is a mandatory in-person component. Most of the time your employer will have you complete the in-person section at a designated training area or on a mock job site. Hands-on learning is the most effective way to learn OSHA compliance and safety.

The powered industrial truck can be an instrument of danger, and you need to know how to mitigate risk.

In most cases, your company will pay for your training expenses. Not all employers offer on-site certification, however. Once you complete and pass OSHA forklift training and have your certificate, you will be allowed to operate a forklift.

You must be at least 18 years of age to receive your certification.

Click here to learn more about forklift operation certification requirements and options.

Compliance Is Crucial

One of the key themes of your OSHA forklift safety certification is a focus on compliance. You can lose your license if you consistently or dangerously disregard or misinterpret OSHA regulations. Forklift operators who deliberately disobey regulations are liable for damages or injuries that occur on the job.

Employers — not just operators — should also ensure and value compliance. Because OSHA itself does not offer certification courses, the burden of liability and ensuring employee certification lies solely with the employer.

Careers in Forklift Operation

Industry trends show high, static or increasing demand for certified forklift operators. These skills are transferable to many fields, including shipping and receiving, new construction, general contracting, industrial and building trades, and even post office fulfillment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanical operators make a median salary of approximately $35,000 per year. This includes certified forklift operators.

Job prospects will increase a bit faster than the national average over the next decade. There are currently about 680,000 jobs for certified machinery operators nationwide.

Thousands of preventable accidents occur on the job each year. Dedicated workers are needed to help reduce risk and safely operate forklifts according to OSHA’s standards. Safety and compliance focused workers will advance in the field, and transparency in communication is valued in the industry.

Some forklift operators excavate raw materials from mines, whereas others move industrial materials. Moving materials can happen at all hours of the day and night, so workers are in demand for all three typical shifts.

High paying off-shore jobs for certified OSHA forklift operators are also in demand, as the oil and gas industry moves tons of material around work sites. These forklift drivers might work odd hours or long days but are compensated well.

Requirements for the job include a high school diploma and some post-secondary OSHA forklift certification training. On the job, mentorship is often available, so ask prospective employers about options, especially if you’re new to the field.

Learn how to ace your OSHA forklift test here!

Train and Get Trained

Professionals who want to learn how to safely operate powered industrial trucks have lots of options for training and jobs, and it’s up to you to recruit and keep the best talent.

If you are an employer that wants to offer OSHA forklift certification courses to your employees, we would love to help. We have a seven-part course with proven results. We look forward to working with you!