Safety Training Notes

Forklift Operator Training and the Pitfalls of Online Promises


When it comes to forklift training, online programs can seem like an efficient way to certify your operators. It’s quick, easy, and less expensive than in-person training. Whether it’s purchasing online videos on some element of forklift safety or using a comprehensive online course, there are merits to in-person training and considerations to take into account before committing to the web.


Training Components

First, let’s talk about what forklift operator training should consist of. Generally, training should cover:

  • the types of lift trucks used in your specific work environment
  • hazards created by the use of these vehicles
  • general safety requirements (such as the pre-shift inspection)
  • general principles of safe forklift operation

Practical Safety Training ShotThis training should be both lecture and practical instruction. According to OSHA standards, training can be provided by an outside consultant, however employers must provide evidence of classroom and practical training. Employers must also confirm that operators are competent and safe.


Evaluations and Refresher Training

Evaluations must be completed after the initial training to verify that employees have acquired the necessary knowledge to operate a forklift. Subsequent evaluations must be completed every three years after the initial training. These evaluations can be a discussion with the employee, written documentation of previous training, performance testing, or simply observation of the employee.  If the evaluation reveals that the employee operates the forklift in an unsafe manner, refresher training is needed.

Refresher training is also necessary if the employee was observed operating in an unsafe manner, was involved in an accident or a near-miss incident, or was assigned to operate a different kind of lift truck. Changing conditions in the workplace which affect safe operation of the lift truck are also a reason to complete refresher training.

One thing to keep in mind if you are considering the purchase of online training - if an employee does need refresher training at anytime,  it may be difficult to regain access to the online training program if it's a one-time video course.


Online Promises

Some online training sources boast of 100 percent online training or guarantee certification in one hour. Be wary of these statements. OSHA standards clearly state that operator safety training must be both lecture and practical.

Purchasing cheap online training courses may save the company money in the short term. However without supplementing these courses in the form of hands-on training, operators will not have the knowledge to safely operate their equipment. This leads to unsafe working conditions, accidents, and liabilities which is not good for the bottom line.

Many training courses consist of short videos. These videos alone are not a complete source for forklift training. Not only does this method not meet OSHA requirements, but without work-site specific information, unsafe operation could result in serious injury.

Stability Triangle ImageThe value of in-person safety training cannot be overstated. Without an experienced trainer, employee questions may go unanswered causing confusion and unsafe operation in the future. Additionally, when test questions are answered incorrectly - though operators will be shown the correct answers - no one will be there to explain why their answer was incorrect and the reasoning behind the correct answer. Trainers bring quality knowledge and experience to lift truck training.

While online training may be easily accessible and a low cost alternative to in-person training, it is not the best way to ensure safe operation of forklifts in the workplace. If purchasing online training courses is essential for your company there are many quality courses that can be purchased from reputable sources. Keep in mind that it is important to research the course thoroughly before relying on it to train your operators. Completely training from an online source is not a replacement for an experienced trainer that can provide site-specific information and hands-on operator safety training.

Read more about how to improve forklift operator safety training.