In most cases, only trained and fully competent operators who have been certified are legally allowed to operate a forklift. Providing adequate training for all forklift operators is also essential to ensure that these forklifts are handled with the care and precision needed to stay in good condition. OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, requires all employers to provide training programs that include the general principles of operating a forklift safely, details on the type of forklift that will be used at the workplace, hazards that could arise from using a forklift, and general safety requirements for operating a powered industrial piece of equipment.
Learning about the service and mechanics of a forklift is essential for all potential operators. The list below covers the training program topics related to maneuvering a forklift safely:
- Vehicle Differenced — There are distinct differences between driving a forklift and driving a car. The back wheels control steering on a forklift, so the driver must make sure there is ample room behind him when swinging for a turn.
- Engine — The engine or motor operation, depending on the type of forklift being used, should be understood.
- Attachments — Learning how all of the attachments on the forklift operate and understanding the limitations of their use.
- Load Capacity — Awareness of the forklift capacity to ensure the balance and stability of the machine.
- Composition of Loads — Understanding the best composition of different types of loads to be carried, and their particular stability.
- Load Manipulation — Understanding load manipulation, stacking and unstacking.
- Instrumentation — The details of the forklift controls and their instrumentation should be understood: where the controls are located, what they do and how they function.
- Grades — Understanding how to operate the forklift uphill and downhill with sufficient control is important in order to manage a load.
- Inspections — Awareness of forklift inspections and necessary frequency of planned maintenance.
- Precautions — The operating instructions, warnings and precautions for certain types of forklifts should be well understood.
- Limitations — Awareness of the operating limitations on the forklift.
- Pedestrian Safety — Awareness of pedestrian traffic in areas where the forklift is to be operated.
- Maneuverability — The ability to operate a forklift in restrictive areas, such as narrow aisles or closed environments call for extra caution.
- Energy — Knowing how to refuel a forklift and/or how to charge and recharge the battery.
- Steering — Steering and maneuvering the forklift are essential skills that need to be mastered.
- Safety — Being aware of visibility and the restrictions of what can be seen during loading are integral to safe operation.