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The Truth About Training Forklift Trainers

OSHA requires that all employers certify their forklift operators. Companies typically conduct forklift training in-house or subcontract it out to a forklift training supplier. For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at those who chose the in-house approach to forklift training. Just like buying a used car can be a dicey proposition, so can finding a provider to train your forklift trainers. OSHA 29CFR1910.178 (l) (2) (iii) states “All operator training and evaluation shall be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence.” Even with this notice in place, there are still some companies selling forklift trainer materials or offering online training that promote the following claims:

✔ Become a forklift trainer in 1 hour!
✔ No prerequisites or past experience required.
✔ Do it fast and easy online, no human contact is required.
✔ Anyone can be a trainer!

Interesting, right? What if we applied the same criteria to other industries?

“Become an airline pilot today, don’t waste years in flight school, just buy our materials or log in and get your pilot’s license in one day!”

Or this example: “Become a surgeon now, why spend 8 years of your life in college? Buy our materials or log in today and become a surgeon in only one month, with no prior experience required!”

We laugh at those analogies because we would NEVER fall for those types of fly-by-night schemes, and we understand how dangerous they could be. Even though we recognize these as pretty radical claims, many forklift train the trainer options continue to advertise in this fashion.

Here are some suggestions for companies who are considering training forklift trainers:

1. Pick the right forklift trainer candidates. Contrary to popular belief, not every person would make a great forklift trainer. If you don’t have the right type of trainer candidates in-house or they don’t have the time to train your people, then you would be better to outsource your training. We have found that the most successful forklift trainer candidates should possess the following skills:

– Forklift trainer candidates should have a good safety record
– Good communication
– Solid forklift operation skills
– Computer literate
– Patience
– Understands the job site and forklifts being used.

The quality of your forklift operators and your forklift training program will be a direct correlation to the quality of your forklift trainers. Short cutting the training of your forklift trainers puts your whole forklift safety program in jeopardy.

2. Pick the right training supplier. I think we can dismiss just buying a forklift trainer’s kit or online forklift trainer training as valid options, but many of the other solutions on the market are only slightly better. Here are some things to look for when picking a vendor to train your forklift trainers. Pick a class that takes the time to do it right; one day is too short, it takes a day to train forklift operators, let alone trainers, which will have a higher level of responsibility and liability. Watch out for classes that “bait and switch” meaning you find out once you are already in the class that the materials which you need to train cost more than the class itself. OSHA says nothing about forklift trainers needing to be re-evaluated, like they do with forklift operators; watch out for programs which try and extract money out of you every three years. It should be your call when and if to return for more training. Lastly, how is the support after the sale? Will you continue to get your questions answered and be kept up to date on what is happening in the forklift safety world or will you be on your own to fend for yourself?

3. Uniformity in the training of forklift trainers is critical, especially for large companies with multiple sites across the country. It is rare to find corporations which have a uniform approach to how forklift training is conducted, how the forklift trainers are trained and what materials they are using. For example, if the Ohio site uses the local Mitsubishi dealer, the Arizona site uses a safety consultant, and the New Jersey site does it all in-house, the chances they have any uniformity among the sites are zero. Finding a vendor with a national reach that can train forklift trainers anywhere in the US is important, but not easy to find.

4. Find a supplier who can help you identify forklift safety hazards in your workplace, so your business can make changes. Identifying and fixing forklift and pedestrian safety hazards that have existed for decades is not an easy thing. When a training provider comes to your site to train forklift trainers, they should look things over and make recommendations. Alternatively, if you send your trainers to their training site, they should be instructing your trainers about identifying common hazards.

Not long ago, we surveyed a customer site and found they had the following issues:

1. Operators not wearing seatbelts on sit-downs
2. Stand-ups lacked rear posts
3. Several sets of forks were worn out at the heel
4. Battery compartment latches were broken
5. Attachments were not listed on the data plate
6. Exits were blocked with pallets
7. PPE was not in good condition and being used
8. Flatbed truck drivers were allowed too close to the action when being loaded.

It would have been easy to just provide a forklift trainer’s class, but it was worthwhile helping the end user find and fix hazards they weren’t previously aware of.

Written by Brian Colburn of Forklift Training Systems, a leader in U.S. based forklift safety training and international forklift safety products. More info can be found at Email your inquiries to:

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