If you’re interested in becoming a forklift operator, or need to train new warehouse employees, you’ll need to be aware of certification requirements. Although it’s not required by law to have an official forklift operator’s license, most industrial companies and insurance providers require that forklift operations be certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). An OSHA certification insures that a forklift operator is able to do a job safely and efficiently. Operating a forklift requires proper skill and knowledge and without training, operators can pose a serious threat to themselves and other members of the warehouse.

“Most industrial companies and insurance providers require that forklift operations be certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).”

On-The-Job Training

If you’re hired as forklift operator and haven’t received any outside training, your employer will be responsible to train you. This type of training is required to take place at the workplace with the type of forklift you will be asked to operate. Employers are also required to train employees in all operating instructions, warnings, and precautions listed in the operator’s manual for the type of vehicle which the employee is being trained to operate, whether it be pallet jacks, an electric sit down forklift, or a cushion tire forklift. So if you’re not given specific instruction on the type of machine you will be using, ask for it. After completing the training, your employer should issue a certificate and maintain these records. You should get a copy for your own records as well.

Outside Training

Another option is to obtain a forklift certification through an outside instruction or an online OSHA-compliant course. There are many outside qualified training programs that can provide evidence that you have successfully completed classroom and practical training. Your employer will still need to ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation.

Many online forklift certification courses are devoted to forklift safety. 123Forklift provides a selection of forklift certification. If you decide to go this route, you may still have to convey your competency at your job site to fully met OSHA requirements. Your boss will mostly likely have you submit to some sort of evaluation.

You can also attend a course in person where they will teach you how to drive forklifts specific to what you need. If you want hands-on training before hitting the job site, this may be a good option. There are typically lecture, examination, and driving components of these types of classes.


OSHA requires that employers take the time to retrain some of its forklift operators. This applies to situations when drivers do poorly on evaluations, are involved in a workplace forklift accident or near accident, or are witnesses to driving a machine in an unsafe manner. Also, when new forklift trucks are acquired that are much different than those drivers are currently familiar with, drivers must be trained to operate that new forklift. OSHA standards also require that retraining needs to take place in a situation that the workplace undergoes major changes like building modifications.

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(Operations Manager)

Chris Charles is a 27 year veteran of operations and logistics. Experience included commercial property management and project management for an international shipping company in Maryland.

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