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How to Become a Forklift Operator

The importance of forklifts in warehouses

Forklift equipment is an essential part of any logistics chain. Whether preparing to ship products from the production plant, getting ready to send them out from the distribution center, or unloading at the client facility, forklifts are necessary for many steps. But forklifts, while important, must be operated by qualified professionals.  As with other heavy machinery and equipment, they can be dangerous when driven by an under qualified individual. 

Account Manager Ashlee McKay who has over seven years of experience in the staffing industry provides further insight.

Forklifts and the people that operate them are highly important because they can be used in various industries to help keep our economy going. There’s distribution and logistics, manufacturing, construction, or any industry that would require someone to use PIT (Power Industrial Truck) equipment to move product.”

How to become a forklift operator

Fortunately, there are standard guidelines for becoming a forklift operator set by OSHA. Since they’re federal guidelines, they’re consistent from state to state, though some states like Maryland, Massachusetts, and California have additional forklift operator requirements. If you want to learn how to operate a forklift, here are some of the requirements.

Forklift operator requirements

1. Age and Education 

The minimum age requirement to become forklift-certified is eighteen. If you’re underage, you won’t be able to enroll in the certification classes. Most classes will also require you to have a high-school diploma as well, or the equivalent GED. 

2. Work Experience

Forklifts are used in warehouses, logistics, construction sites and other workplaces. Besides learning how to operate a forklift, you’ll need to understand the environment where you’ll be working. For that reason, it’s best to get some work experience in a job where you’re looking to get forklift certified. Operating the forklift itself is only one part of the job — you’ll have to work with a product team and know the workflow of the site too. 

3. OHSA Courses

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers great information about forklift operator safety on their website.  Employers must ensure that each forklift operator is competent to operate a forklift safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in the Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) standard.  

Begin applying for forklift operator jobs

With your training and experience, you’ll be able to apply to forklift operator job openings. This is also where previous work experience can pay off. In addition to being able to operate a forklift competently, you’ll be familiar with a warehouse or distribution center’s workflow and the chain of command. You’ll be able to jump right into the new job. 

Is a forklift certification worth it?

Forklift operation is a valuable skill to add to your resume. It’s a skill that shows you are willing to learn and is one of the more commonly available upskilling opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the demand for material moving machine operators to grow 7 percent through 2031.

After some experience as a forklift operator, you might be able to become a supervisor or another managerial position. You could also go full circle and become an instructor for forklift operator classes or move on to learn how to operate other machinery. 

“I do believe there is always going to be a need for forklift operators. Whether you need someone to build the distribution center or a forklift operator to work in the warehouse there is going to be a need,” says McKay.

No matter where your career takes you, becoming a forklift operator is a valuable skill you can apply in many scenarios. Visit our job board to find the latest forklift operator jobs near you