OSHA requires all forklift operators to be certified every 36 months. Workers will need to pass a short, multiple-choice test to show they can operate forklifts safely. In some states, there's also a driving test. Many employers are authorized by OSHA to administer both parts of the test after training.
Even experienced workers should get a day or two of training before starting a new job. Different businesses have varying rules and operate in different environments. Companies could be fined up to $10,000 if they let people operate forklifts who aren't certified.
Any employee who uses a forklift should be properly trained and supervised to avoid injuries. No one should operate a forklift without training, even if they only need the machine for a few minutes. Make sure workers wear the correct safety gear. This includes steel-toed boots, a hard hat where needed, and a high-visibility vest or jacket. Gloves and eye protection are needed when moving dangerous chemicals. Make sure your clothing isn't loose enough to catch on controls. Don't try to carry a load that's too heavy for the forklift you're using.
Each day, do a quick inspection to prevent mechanical troubles. This should be done before you or your employees start using a forklift for the day. Be sure you're familiar with the controls and check the wheels and tires to prevent poor handling.
Don't try to operate the forklift if you notice any issues. This includes missing bolts, exposed wires, bent forks, or problems with the engine. Repair any issues you find or use another unit until the first forklift is in good condition again. Have all your pallet jacks inspected by a professional at least every six months.
Before you start moving your load, the route should be free from hazards and uneven surfaces. You should also make sure all loads are balanced correctly so they won't tip over or fall off the pallet you're using. Don't try to operate a forklift with wet or greasy hands. Always stand on the platform or sit in the operator's seat. Fasten your seatbelt, adjust the chair and mirrors, and always keep your head, arms, and legs inside the operating area.
If you're carrying a large load that obstructs your view, ask a coworker to act as a spotter. He or she can stand ahead of you and tell you where you should go to avoid obstacles. You can also operate forklifts in reverse if there's not enough visibility going forward. No matter how big your load is, go up inclines forward and down in reverse to keep it from slipping off the forks.
Don't stop, start, or change direction suddenly. Also, don't try to load or unload goods on a ramp or lift a load with just one fork. Always go slowly around curves and corners. Travel with the load tilted back and the forks as close to the ground as possible. If you need to, you can use ropes to secure loads. Don't exceed the weight capacity of a forklift. Watch for clearance height signs on doors to make sure that your load will fit through them.
Treat all wires as conductors and assume that electrical current is running through them. Using strict electrical safety protocols will prevent dangerous electrical shocks. Avoid bumps or potholes that could cause your load to shift, and watch for changes in your surroundings like debris. Use the horn when you're about to make a turn or when you're near other employees. Don't operate a forklift near any other heavy equipment being used at the same time. This precaution will reduce collisions and other accidents. Also, don't carry passengers or let anyone stand or walk underneath a load that a forklift is carrying.
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