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The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal government entity that oversees all things concerning forklifts. The agency has several standards or rules pertaining to the proper, safe operation of a lift and who can train lift drivers.
Managers, trainers, and operators may not understand OSHA rules pertaining to the requirements one must satisfy to be a forklift operator, to train prospective drivers, and how rules are administered. What follows are some details that hopefully makes all of this clearer.
Although all forklift operators must be trained in the use of a forklift, only those who have exhibited unsafe practices, have been involved in accidents or near misses or who have received poor evaluation on their driving are required to take a refresher training course each year. OSHA also requires that an evaluation of all forklift operators be performed at least once every three years.
Drivers must be trained in the use of each type of lift including a sit-down and stand-up rider, order-picker and pallet jack. However, it is not necessary that he be trained to operate each manufacturer’s lift. It is expected that the driver be instructed on driving a lift that includes different features than a previous lift he has driven, like different controls.
Individuals who are being certified as a forklift driver is not required to have a valid driver’s license, but is required to be evaluated as he operates a lift and must answer questions to prove that he is knowledgeable and has the experience necessary to operate the lift.
OSHA’s rules do not specifically mention vision and hearing requirements. However, it does expect employers to determine that full vision is necessary for the operation of the lift and that they should seek a doctor’s opinion.
Whether a physically impaired person should or should not operate a lift is determined on a case-by-case basis. OSHA could cite an employer who gives a physically impaired person a forklift operators job knowing that the impairment could cause an accident. OSHA rules prevent a person who has a visual, auditory, physical, or mental disability from operating low lift and high lift trucks.
Only people who have the “knowledge, training, and experience” of operating a forklift can train drivers and evaluate their performance. The person offering the training does not have to be an employee of the warehouse. It is acceptable to hire someone from outside the company to perform the training. If a warehouse chooses to use an outside consultant to do the training, then that consultant must offer evidence that he has completed a relevant training course. In a letter of interpretation OSHA states, “As long as the employer has a reasonable basis to believe that the third-party trainer is qualified and has a program that meets the requirements of the standard, it can rely on that trainer to conduct the training and evaluation of employees and can certify that these employees have been trained. However… the employer may need to provide additional training on site-specific or truck specific matters.”