Improperly Trained Forklift Operators Put Businesses at Risk

Traffic cones.
(Courtesy: Peter Kaminski at

In a perfect world, businesses that use forklifts would operate problem- and accident-free. There would never be any costly payouts for workmen’s comp or personal injury lawsuits. And there would be no lost productivity, damaged property, or lost inventory as a result of forklift crashes.

Unfortunately, forklift accidents happen all too often. They can affect not only your business’s bottom line but also your professional reputation and standing in the community. In the wake of any serious accident, OSHA is bound by law to investigate. And the results of that investigation are a matter of public record.

Reducing Workplace Accidents

One of the leading causes of forklift accidents in the workplace is poorly trained drivers. When people take shortcuts, are careless, or don’t actually know what they are doing, it can often have disastrous effects on your business.

The good news is that correcting this problem is relatively simple. In fact, it’s legally required.

Federal regulations mandate that businesses require their forklift drivers to be fully trained and certified before they ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Plus, every driver must be evaluated and recertified every three years.

Businesses also are required to keep permanent records of this training and certification process and be able to produce these records at the request of an OSHA investigator at any time.

Improving Workplace Safety

Like anything else, when it comes to forklift safety there are the legal requirements and then there are the practical applications.

While business owners are legally bound to train and certify their forklift operators, from a practical standpoint they also have to provide adequate supervision. Drivers can have all the training and paperwork in the world, but if there isn’t anybody watching them on a daily basis and correcting mistakes, well … people are people.

Improperly or inadequately supervised forklift operators are naturally going to cut corners, both literally and figuratively. They are going to find ways to make their jobs easier and take safety shortcuts that can put people and property at risk.

Committing to Safe Operations

Nobody likes to be the workplace bad guy. But it’s more important to properly police your employees than it is to be their friend — especially when the future of your business is at stake.

Meeting your legal obligations for training and certifying forklift operators is only half the equation. The other half is creating, implementing, and then enforcing workplace rules and policies, such as pre-shift checklists, frequent performance evaluations, and steps of progressive discipline for policy violations.

It’s your own business. It’s up to you to mind it.

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