Training The Trainers

Warehouse and distribution center managers understand the importance of training forklift operators. Many companies outsource the training to company’s that are specifically created to perform such things. Many companies have opted to have an employee perform the activity.

The Occupational Safety And Health Administration is the U.S. government agency that has jurisdiction over the proper use of forklifts. Also known as OSHA, the organization has developed regulations concerning the training of forklift operators and the proper use of these machines.

OSHA requires that forklift operators be certified to drive a lift. It also requires the employees who train the operators to be certified trainers.

Who Is Eligible To Be A Qualified Trainer?

A variety of warehouse or distribution center personnel have been identified as qualifying trainers. They include:

• Warehouse Foreman
• Supervisor
• Warehouse Manager
• Branch Manager
• Safety Supervisor or Officer
• Owner of the Company

In-House Trainer

It is not only necessary for the forklift driver to be certified and well trained. The employee who trains the forklift driver must also be certified and well trained.
(Courtesy: Rebekah Kershaw at

Designating an employee to be a certified trainer offers a number of benefits to a warehouse business. First, potential employees who wish to apply for a forklift operator job does not have to pay to take a course. Instead, the warehouse business offers the course and the company pays for its implementation. Having the warehouse perform the training also benefits potential forklift operators because the training program takes place within the environment in which the employee will operate. In effect, prospective drivers are learning on-the-job.

And since the program is executed in-house, the warehouse manager and/or fleet manager can oversee the instruction. Over time the warehouse manager or fleet manager develops a trust in the trainer and knows that he is properly training potential drivers under both company and OSHA standards.

An in-house training program also makes it easier to identify drivers who might need a refresher course and to execute that course as the driver performs his job.

Trainer Requirements

Traits that a forklift operator trainer needs to have include:

• History in the field of forklift operation.
• Being willing to go beyond to enhance his skills.
• Having knowledge in operating a variety of forklifts.
• Having experience in driving a forklift in different environments.
• Being a certified forklift driver.
• Being a high school graduate.
• Knowing how to operate any powered industrial truck.
• Knowing how a forklift works.
• Being organized.
• Keeping track of all training, certifications and violations of his drivers.
• Superior management skills
• Being a team player that knows how to work with all other managers in the warehouse.
• The ability to assure that all employees are on the same page.

Instructor and Company Accountability

So who makes certain that a trainer is accountable. Although OSHA sets the standards for safety and ensures that standards are being followed, it does not issue licenses to instructors. OSHA only requires that an instructor be certified and trained.

OSHA requires that operators of powered industrial trucks take a course and pass a written exam and evaluation. It is the sole responsibility of the warehouse manager to hire a well-qualified trainer. If the instructor is under-trained and an accident occurs, the hiring manager and the company is liable. A company could be fined and possibly even shutdown if problems and violations are not dealt with in a timely manner.

How A Trainer Is Trained

The trainer must have taken a class and have passed a written forklift training test and evaluation.

A prior instructor or a current instructor who is retiring can train a new instructor. This could be the best alternative because the training takes place in the actual work environment in which the new trainer will serve. This allows the new instructor to learn how to train as well as learn company policies at the same time.

The only other alternative is to give the potential instructor leave of absence so that he can receive training and certification from a company specifically created and recognized to perform the task. In this case, the company will probably be obligated to pay for the course.

The instructor is also required to pass a refresher evaluation at least once every three years or when a violation occurs. In addition, an instructor must be trained and evaluated on any new equipment to assure he is capable of operating it.


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