While it may be common knowledge that operators need to be properly trained to operate a forklift safely, there remains a lot of confusion on not only what OSHA requires, but what best practices can keep your operation safe and your organization out of hot water.

Obviously, OSHA’s goal is to reduce the number of injuries and illnesses that occur to workers in the workplace from unsafe conditions, including powered industrial truck usage. But providing an effective training program will result in many other benefits as well. Among these are the lower cost of compensation insurance, less property damage, and less product damage.

Skipping opportunities for interim training of new or temporary employees account for many incidents and accidents in a facility. It simply does not suffice to meet minimum required OSHA three-year certifications; smart managers are using training sessions with equipment training experts as an opportunity to address concerns, improve worker buy-in for safety programs, and discuss the many benefits of a safer operation.

How often does your facility change out equipment due to maintenance or employ rentals during busy seasons? Are your operators crossed trained on the new units? What about attachments or other unique add-on equipment? If an operator will be expected to operate multiple or specialty vehicles, then training must address the unique characteristics of each type of vehicle the employee is expected to operate. When an attachment is used on the truck to move odd-shaped materials, then the operator training must include instruction on the safe conduct of those tasks so that the operator knows and understands the restrictions or limitations created by each vehicle’s use.

Another primary concern is retraining in response to operator issues. A helpful list (to meet OSHA standards) exists to indicate exactly when you need to call your training provider, including:

  1. When the operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner
  2. When the operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident.
  3. When the operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely.
  4. When the operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck.
  5. When a condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safety operation of the truck.

Lastly, it is often overlooked that the use of powered hand trucks present numerous hazards to employees who operate them and bystanders working in the areas where they are used. Even hand truck operators require OSHA compliant training and recertification.

If your facility is looking at cost savings measures, don’t discount the importance of proper and timely training to minimize costs associated with insurance, equipment, and property damage. An investment in a safe operation always makes financial sense.


Victor Crespo is an Operator Safety Trainer with Wiese USA and has five years of material handling industry experience. Victor holds numerous certifications including Train the Trainer for a variety of lift truck, aerial work platform, and cranes. Crespo was a former professor with extensive education and public speaking experience in both English and Spanish.

Dennis Lammlein has been with Wiese USA for 43 years, and is an expert at warehouse operations. He has 27 years as a Training Instructor with certifications for sit-down counter balanced lift trucks, warehouse product trucks, rough terrain lift trucks, and aerial lifts and offers specialized Operator Safety classes for skid-steer and terminal tractors.