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Forklift Operator Training

Quick Tips #106

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines a powered industrial truck as a mobile, power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier materials. Powered industrial trucks—more commonly known as pallet trucks, rider trucks, forktrucks or lifttrucks—can be ridden or controlled by a walking operator. They can be powered through electric or combustion engines and designed for a variety of applications.


OSHA lists Powered industrial trucks, 29 CFR 1910.178, in it's Top Ten most frequently cited standard violations for 2011. The adoption of training requirements for industrial truck operators 1910.178(l) will help reduce fatalities and accidents. In addition, annual savings in the millions of dollars in direct costs associated with lost workdays attributed to industrial truck accidents will be realized. Medical and indirect costs savings will increase benefits substantially beyond the direct savings.

The forklift operator training requirement applies to several industries including general industry (1910), shipyards (1915), marine terminals (1917), longshoring (1918) and construction (1926).

Training Requirements

The OSHA forklift operator training requirements incorporate safe operation, training program implementation, training program content, refresher training and evaluation, avoidance of duplicate training and certification.

Safe Operation

The employer must ensure that every powered industrial truck operator is competent in the operation of a truck prior to operating as proven by the successful completion of the required training.

Training Program Implementation

All forklift operator training and evaluation must be conducted by individuals who have the knowledge, training and experience to train and evaluate potential operators. Training will include a combination of formal instruction, demonstrations and practical exercises performed by the trainee and an evaluation of the operator's performance. Practical exercises must be performed under the direct supervision of trainers and where the practical training does not endanger the trainee or other employees.

Training Program Content

Trainees must be initially trained in the following truck-related and workplace-related topics:

Truck Related:

  • Operating instructions, warnings and precautions for type of truck
  • Similarities and differences to automobiles
  • Control and instrumentation location and use
  • Engine or motor operation
  • Steering and maneuvering
  • Visibility
  • Fork and attachment limitations and use
  • Vehicle capacity
  • Vehicle stability
  • Vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • Refueling or charging batteries
  • Operating limitations
  • Other operating instructions, warnings or precautions listed in the operator's manual

Workplace Related:

  • Surface conditions where truck is used
  • Load composition and stability
  • Load stacking, unstacking and transport
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • Narrow aisle and restricted area operation
  • Operation in hazardous locations
  • Ramp and sloped surface operation
  • Unique or potentially hazardous conditions
  • Operating the vehicle in closed environments

Because powered industrial trucks are manufactured by different companies with various models available, the training must be specific to the operating characteristics of the specific powered industrial truck the employee will be using.

Evaluation and Refresher Training

An evaluation of the performance of each powered industrial truck operator will be conducted every three years. Refresher training will be conducted so employees retain the ability to safely operate an industrial truck. Retraining should also be used if there is reason to believe that unsafe acts have been committed, an accident or near-miss occurs, an evaluation reveals a deficiency, assignment to a different type of truck or a workplace condition changes that would affect truck operation.


The employer must certify that every operator has received appropriate training, has been evaluated and has demonstrated competency in performing the operator's duties. The name of the trainee, date of training and signature of the designated evaluator will be included in the certification.

Avoidance of Duplicate Training

If a current or new truck operator has been trained in any of the required training elements and is authorized to operate a specific truck in a specific environment, the operator does not need to be retrained in these elements if the employer certifies the operator is competent.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q.   What is the stability triangle?
A.   The majority of counterbalanced industrial trucks have their weight supported on three points. Even on a four-wheeled truck, the front two drive wheels are two points on the stability triangle, while the back two steering wheels, which are connected on a central pivot, support the weight at the rear and make the third point. When these three points are connected with imaginary lines, the stability triangle is formed.

The stability triangle is useful in explaining the stability of a powered industrial truck. An unloaded truck on a level surface will have a center of gravity in the middle of the stability triangle. As a load is added to the truck, or if the truck is on an inclined surface, the center of gravity will move within the stability triangle. If the center of gravity moves outside of the stability triangle, the truck will tip over. 1910.178 App A
Q.   What is considered formal training?
A.   A formal training is the combination of classroom training, including lecture, discussion, video tape, interactive computer learning or written material.

29 CFR 1910.178, Powered Industrial Trucks.

(Rev. 11/2012)

Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The content in this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific compliance questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.

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