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It should be pretty self-evident that forklifts are significantly more dangerous to operate than standard automobiles, and yet some people continue to allow those under 18 years of age to operate forklifts. Unsurprisingly, when you allow minors to handle a forklift, the propensity for injury increases dramatically and this is one reason why the Fair Labor Standards Act regulates against minors operating forklifts. Even though the dangers of allowing minors to operate forklifts should be obvious, it is still helpful to review them and this post offers an overview of why anyone under 18 should never be anywhere near a lift truck.
Dangers facing minors
Warehouses may be tempted to hire minors because of the opportunity for cheap labor; this topic is especially pertinent in the summertime, when teenagers look for seasonal employment. This is harmful for a variety of reasons. First, warehouses tend to disregard the substantial training needed to properly operate a forklift. Because seasonally employed high school students lack official training and seasoned familiarity with the equipment and the warehouse facility, they are more inexperienced and less likely to overcome any safety risks that develop. Adding to this problem is that operators under 18 years old are frequently hired on the job rather than in a proper setting, and this real-world training means that they are exposed to serious danger from the outset. It is also worth noting that a 16 or 17 year-old simply hasn’t been driving for very long; some states allow 16 year-olds to receive their driver’s license, but even if they have been driving for two years this still means that they are inexperienced drivers. Considering that minors are not particularly proficient when driving road vehicles, it is only natural that they are unfit to handle a forklift.
The OSHA 29 CFR1910.178 specifically mentions that all operators must be properly trained. In addition, the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits those under 18 from operating any non-agricultural vehicle deemed hazardous—this refers not only to forklifts but also woodcutting machines, metal forming and welding machines, shearing machines, and meat-processing ones as well. There are also limitations on the amount of hours that minors are eligible to work, and 16 is the minimum age of employment.
A veteran forklift operator may underestimate the dangers of operating a forklift and decide to hire a minor. There is no excuse for this, and those 18 years of age and older should be careful not to overlook proper safety practice themselves. Forklifts are difficult enough for adults to operate, and there is no room for a minor to ever handle one.