We asked 128,274 job seekers about their Forklift Certification. This is what they told us:
Forklift certification programs train students to safely operate and maintain powered industrial trucks, also known as forklifts, according to the standards required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).1 OSHA does not require a license to operate a forklift, but it does require that operators receive the appropriate training for certification by their employers or through a certification program. Operating a forklift is a job skill that requires knowledge and ability. The lack of proper training results in approximately 100 fatalities per year.2
If you are seeking employment as a forklift operator in a general, construction or maritime industry, you will likely require this type of training before or upon beginning the job. Forklift certification program costs, requirements and procedures may vary by state, but all training must meet or exceed OSHA standards.3
Forklift certification is usually based on the industry and type of equipment. Carefully check job descriptions for the type of forklift certification required before beginning a course of training. An employer will indicate which type of training is appropriate for a specific job title. The type of certification required will often depend on the industry it is used in. There are six common types of forklifts:
This type of forklift is battery operated, counterbalanced and does not produce any emissions, making it ideal for use indoors where there are concerns about air quality. Its cushioned tires operate best on smooth surfaces, such as in a warehouse or indoor facility. It is also relatively quiet. Operators can stand up or sit down while using an electric forklift. It is typically used for loading or unloading and handling pallets. These are sometimes known as pallet jacks.
This class of forklift is also electric and is similar to electric motor rider trucks. The main difference is that narrow aisle trucks can operate in very tight spaces, which allows for maximization of warehouse space. Some of these forklifts also perform specialized jobs such as operating as reach or outrigger trucks and order pickers. These types of machines can have a high or low lift platform.
These types of forklifts are operated by hand and are sometimes known as pallet jacks. They are often used to unload tractor trailers. There are both sit-down and walk-behind options. Class III forklifts can be high or low lift and are counterbalanced.
This class of counterbalanced forklift has an engine similar to a car and requires a fuel source, such as gasoline. Most of these forklifts are used to move loads from a dock to storage. The low profile tires are closer to the ground than traditional forklifts, making it ideal for low clearances.
The majority of these fuel-powered, counterbalanced forklifts are used outdoors, but they can also be found in large warehouses. The pneumatic tires maneuver easily on uneven ground. They can support anything from pallets to large containers.
Rough terrain forklift trucks have large, tractor-style tires and are usually used outdoors in lumber yards or on construction sites. They feature a diesel-powered engine and are ideal for lifting materials to extended heights.
Participation in a private or employer-sponsored certification program consistent with OSHA standards is required for certification. The program must be administered by an individual with the appropriate education to deliver it or relevant work experience and knowledge. Requirements may vary by state, but in most cases any individual that is 18-years-old with a valid driver’s license/state ID card and a Social Security card is eligible to seek certification.
It doesn’t matter if a forklift certification course is taught at an employee workplace or at a separate training facility, it must contain the basics for safety laid out by OSHA requirements. These safety topics are organized into two categories: truck-related topics and work-related topics.
The truck-related section of forklift training covers the safe operation of the actual machinery. An instructor will provide operating instructions, warnings and precautions. The differences between a forklift and automobile will be discussed. In addition, the instructor will go over attachments, adaptations, capacity, stability and operating limitations. Maintenance topics, such as safe refueling or charging, will also be included as part of the forklift certification training.
Work-related topics involve the environment around the forklift. Students will learn to properly load and unload a forklift for stability and how to maneuver safely around pedestrians. The instructor will cover the identification of different surface conditions as well as how to safely operate on ramps, slopes and in tight workplaces. Hazards, such as environmental conditions and closed areas, will be identified and discussed. The goal is to teach the forklift operator to identify potential dangers for reducing workplace accidents.
There are a variety of options for obtaining a forklift certification. Individuals seeking certification can participate in an employer-sponsored program or seek certification on their own. The program must be based on OSHA safety standards and teach participants about the type of forklift that will be used, safe operation and potential hazards. These are the general steps for getting a forklift certification:
Whether you are preparing yourself for a career as a forklift operator, or you have been hired to operate a forklift, it is important that you determine the right type of forklift training you will need to perform your job duties. The type of certification will depend on the type of forklift that you will be operating and the industry you will be using it in. If you are unsure, ask your employer which type of certification your job will require. In addition, your state may have additional requirements to fulfill.
Your employer is obligated by OSHA to provide you with the proper forklift safety training. However, some potential employees seek certification before entering the job market. There are both in-person and online forklift courses available. These courses typically cost around $40. If your employer provides you with the training program, you will likely pay nothing. OSHA does not endorse any particular program, but does provide information about what a forklift certification program should provide.4
Forklift certification courses usually last one to two days and include up to eight hours of classroom learning. Lessons usually focus on OSHA safety regulations and standards for the operation of forklifts, maintenance and accident prevention.
OSHA does not require a written exam. However, most forklift certification programs do require a short test to demonstrate knowledge of the content learned in the online or in-person lessons. If you are completing your certification through a private program, you should save your exam scores to present to any future or current employers.
Some in-person training programs will offer an opportunity to learn the hands-on basics of safe forklift operation. Every individual that intends to operate a forklift should take part in these exercises to show that they can use a forklift safely and effectively. This portion of the training program will require the operator to perform tasks with the forklift relevant to the duties they will perform on the job.
All employers are required to evaluate employee competency to operate a forklift. They may do this in a variety of ways, including discussing forklift operation with the employee, observing the employee operating a forklift, reviewing the documentation of safe operation of a forklift at a previous job or conducting a performance test. OSHA requires employers to evaluate and recertify forklift operators at least once every three years.
OSHA generally covers private sector employees. States with state plans in place approved by OSHA for regulating employers include coverage for public sector employees. A state plan must exceed the OSHA plan in coverage. State plans may differ in rules and regulations from the federal OSHA forklift requirements, but the differences will be in extra requirements or recommendations. Checking your state regulations will help you determine the proper training for forklift certification.
There are three categories of states:
For more information about the states featuring state plans approved by OSHA and their requirements, visit the United States Department of Labor Links to State Plans.5
1. “Powered Industrial Trucks - Forklifts”. United States Department of Labor OSHA. Retrieved November 2019.
2. United States Department of Labor OSHA. Retrieved November 2019.
3. “State Plans”. United States Department of Labor OSHA. Retrieved November 2019.
4. “Frequently Asked Questions about Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training”. United States Department of Labor OSHA. Retrieved November 2019.
5. “Links to State Plans Safety and Health Standards and Regulations”. United States Department of Labor OSHA. Retrieved November 2019.
Editorial content last updated: November 2019
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All information on this page, including but not limited to price, cost, instructions, descriptions, and the content of a certification course, is presented for informational purposes only, may be an approximation, is subject to change, and may have been generated by third parties. Prior to enrolling in a course for a certification, please contact the proper school or certification administrators for information regarding certification requirements.