How to Get a Forklift License


Forklift Operator Image

Need to know how to get a forklift license?

In this article, we spell out everything you need to know about getting a forklift operator's license. We'll keep it short and to the point, we promise.

Enjoy the article and good luck

PLUS, as an added bonus, there's a big black download button at the bottom of this article that you give click to download four forklift inspection and refueling/recharging checklists. If you're a safety manager at work, you know how great this is. If you're not, download the checklists anyway, give them to your safety manager, and make his or her day.

To be clear before you begin, OSHA DOES NOT give out forklift certifications or licenses. However, OSHA's Powered Industrial Trucks standard (29 CFR 1910.178) DOES explain the minimum requirements employers must meet in setting up the training requirements that their employees who operate forklfits and other PITs must meet.

1910.178(l): The OSHA Standard That Spells Out How to Get a Forklift License

All the rules regarding how to get a forklift license are spelled out by OSHA in 1910.178(l).

The first thing to notice is that employers must develop and implement a forklift operator training program. So an employee can't get certified to operate a forklift without doing so through a forklift operator training program training program established by his or her employer.

In the standard, OSHA requires the employer to base the forklift training program on:

  • General principles of safe forklift operation
  • The type of forklift the employee will use
  • Hazards created by use of the forklift in the workplace
  • The general safety requirements of the OSHA powered industrial truck/forklift standard

So the OSHA forklift training certification is really the employer's responsibility. And that means that if you want to know how to get a forklift license, this is step 1.

OSHA Forklift Training Requirements: Methods of Instruction

According to OSHA, forklift training:

...shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace.

As you see, there's no one "right" training delivery method to use while trying to get a forklift license.

As a result, it makes sense to use a a blended method of instruction that uses two or more of the instructional methods above. An online forklift safety training video like the one shown in the sample video below can be an effective way to set the scene for forklift training like this.

We've prepared an article explaining how to incorporate online forklift safety training into your overall forklift training certification program for you if you'd like to read more about that.

OSHA Forklift Training Requirements: Practice Training, Skill Demonstration, and Evaluation

Although there's no single right training delivery method for forklift training, let's return to a key part of the OSHA training requirement that we included above (and immediately below as well):

According to OSHA, forklift training:

...shall consist of... practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace.

So while there are lots of kinds of training that CAN be used, it's important to know that this type of practical training, including demonstrations by the trainer and practical exercises by the employee, and evaluation of the employee's performance HAS to be used.

Employers may benefit from using mobile training apps (like the one shown below) in the field while observing and evaluating this forklift operation demonstration. They're a great way of keeping records for this kind of safety training.

mobile safety training app image--crediting training in the field

How to Get a Forklift License: Forklift-Related and Workplace-Related Training Topics

Another thing to know about how to get a forklift license is that the training must include:

  • Forklift-related training topics
  • Workplace-related training topics

OSHA Forklift Training Requirements: Forklift-Related Training Topics

According to OSHA, forklift operator training must include "truck-related topics" as explained in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(3)(i).

These forklift-related training topics include:

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions
  • An explanation of the differences between a forklift and an automobile
  • Forklift controls and instrumentation
  • Engine and/or motor operation
  • How to steer and maneuver
  • Issues related to visibility, including restrictions due to loading
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations
  • Capacity
  • Stability
  • Inspection and maintenance concerns
  • Charging, recharging, and/or refueling
  • Operating limitations

Driving a Forklift Image

OSHA Forklift Training Requirements: Workplace-Related Topics

Forklift operating training must also include workplace-related topics, as OSHA explains in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(3)(ii), and these must include:

  • Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated
  • Composition of loads to be carried. This must include information on load weight, load size, and load position; load capacity; and maximum load moment.
  • Load stability and balance.
  • Load handling, manipulation, stacking, and unstacking, including safe handling preparation, approaching the load, mast position, fork position, lifting the load, lowering the load, high tiering, truck trailers, and railroad cars.
  • Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated.
  • Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated.
  • Hazardous (classified) locations where the vehicle will be operated, including training on designated locations, indoor air quality, and carbon monoxide.
  • Ramps, grades, and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle's stability
  • Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause hazards.
  • Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.

Forklift Hazardous Atmospheres

That's a lot of different training topics. A learning management system (LMS) for managing and keeping track of all that training, such as the one explained in the short video below, may be helpful for safety managers.

Trainee Operation of a Forklift

The trainee can only operate the forklift:

  • Under the direct supervision of persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators and evaluate their competence.
  • In a location where the forklift operation does not endanger the trainee or other employees.

Can Third-Party Forklift Training Apply?

Your employer has to establish the training program, but that doesn't mean that the program can't include training provided by a third party.

That might mean a person who provides forklift training in a face-to-face manner, or online forklift training provided by a training provider.

OSHA Forklift Operator Refresher Training Requirements

Refresher training is necessary in the following circumstances:

  • Every three years
  • When conditions change
  • When the employee will be using a new type of forklift
  • When the employee performs an unsafe act

Additional Information about Forklift Operation Training

You may also find the following resources about forklifts and forklift operation training helpful.

Some Other Articles We've Written About Forklifts

We've got some more articles about forklifts you may find helpful:

Online Training Courses We Offer for Forklifts

We've also got the following two online forklift operator courses available you may find helpful:

Our Forklift Safety Training Video

OurForklift-Reducing Product Damage online course

Free Forklift Inspection & Fueling Checklists

Hope you enjoyed the information above about how to get a forklift license.

As an added bonus, and as promised, we have for you a series of checklists based on materials available on OSHA's website.

Download all four of the checklists by clicking the button below. Once you click the button, you'll fill out a form. Next, we'll send you an email. You click the link in the email, and you'll get a zipped folder. That zipped folder includes all four checklists, each in PDF format. Use whichever ones work for you.


Powered Industrial Truck Safety & Operational Checklists

Here are four checklists to help with powered industrial trucks safety and operations...two for electric-powered PITs, and two for internal combustion PITs.

Download Free Checklists



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