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Proper forklift training helps avoid injuries for workers and customers.


Spring is here and that means a busy time for many growers, landscapers, and greenhouses. Much of the work done requires using heavy equipment like powered industrial trucks—also known as forklifts.

Forklifts are used in many industries, primarily to move materials by raising, lowering, or removing objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers. Forklifts can be ridden or controlled by a walking operator.

Forklift hazards

There are many types of forklifts, and each type presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident. That’s because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck. Other common accidents include:

  • Hitting a pedestrian
  • Workers falling from elevated pallets
  • Driving off loading docks
  • Falling between docks and an unsecured trailer

Forklift training

OSHA requires forklift training be a combination of formal instruction and practical training. By using both methods, you’ll ensure your workers receive and comprehend the instruction so they can safely operate a forklift.

Training doesn’t have to take place in a classroom. A trainer can talk to the trainee either in the workplace or in another location. However, the training must include an explanatory element as well as a practical element.

Here’s an outline of a generic forklift operator training program:

Forklift characteristics

  • Differences from an automobile
  • Controls and instrumentation
  • Engine or motor operation
  • Steering and maneuvering
  • Visibility
  • Vehicle capacity and stability
  • Inspection and maintenance
  • Refueling or charging and recharging batteries
  • Operating limitations

Operating environment

  • Floor surfaces and/or ground conditions
  • Composition of loads and stability
  • Load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • Narrow aisle and restricted place operation
  • Hazardous locations
  • Ramps and other sloped surfaces
  • Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions
  • Closed environments and other areas with insufficient ventilation

After employees finish the training program, you’ll need to evaluate their knowledge and skills to determine if they’re competent to operate the forklift safely. OSHA standards also require you re-evaluate an operator’s performance every three years, or after refresher training.

You’ll also need to complete a certification of training record containing the name of the operator, the date of the training, the date of the evaluation, and the names of those who did the training or evaluation.

Using a forklift in your business can be a big help, but it does come with some risk. By applying the proper training, you can help reduce the hazards. For more on forklift safety and other workplace safety solutions, contact your Hortica agent.

Related links:

For more information on safety preparation for your business, check out the Hortica Resources section.

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