How to Train a Forklift Driver

Forklift operation training helps prevent accidents.
Forklift operation training helps prevent accidents. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Every year there are advances in automobiles making them easier to drive. The same is true with forklifts. However, it would be a mistake to be fooled into thinking a forklift can be driven as easily or as safely as an automobile. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has specific rules governing the training of forklift operators to prevent serious accidents and death that can occur from improper use of this powerful tool.

Things You'll Need

  • Forklift in the style and type the operator will be operating
  • Copy of 29 CFR 1910.178, OSHA's Powered Industrial Truck Standard
  • Cones and miscellaneous items to construct a hands-on forklift operator training area

Design a training program incorporating both classroom instruction and hands-on training as required by OSHA. Several companies offer prepackaged or on-site training for employees. Training should always be designed and delivered by a qualified instructor.

Review operating instructions, controls and warnings for the type of forklift the employee will operate. Tailor all training to be relevant to the type of forklift to be operated.

Discuss differences between a forklift and a vehicle. These include such topics as the stability triangle of a forklift, rear wheel steering, visibility and stopping distance.

Instruct the operator on vehicle load capacity and how it may change due to operational requirements. The instructor should learn how load capacity affects the center of gravity of the forklift and maneuverability of the vehicle.

Show operators forklift operating limitations and capabilities including the use of forklift attachments.

Walk through forklift pre-operational and post-operational safety checks paying close attention to critical items that if in a failure state should pull the forklift out of service.

View environmental conditions of the space where the forklift will be operated paying special attention to surface conditions, grade or slope of terrain, closed environments with little or no ventilation and any hazardous areas where forklift travel may be restricted.

Teach the operator the importance of proper load composition and balance as well as safe procedures for load manipulation, stacking and unstacking.

Use a road test or designed driver training course to observe the operator's proficiency and coach or correct operator deficiencies.

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