How To Get Forklift Certified - Forklift Certification FAQs

You may have questions about forklift certification - we have answers. Learn how to drive a forklift and how to become a certified forklift operator, about forklift certification requirements, certification training, legal requirements, and much more.

What is the process for becoming forklift certified, and why is it important? This forklift certification guide covers frequently asked questions (FAQs) for those seeking forklift certification, including available training options, the basic legal requirements and other key details to help prepare you or your business.

If your employees are in need of a compliant OSHA forklift training and certification program, visit our forklift operator training program page and find a lift truck dealer offering training for forklift certification near you. 

Why is forklift certification required?

  • Many forklift-related accidents are attributed to operator carelessness or the operator being unfamiliar with their forklift operating equipment.
  • Forklift certification helps ensure that forklift operators are trained and aware of the risks and dangers associated with operating a forklift in their environment.
  • Studies show that businesses that implement proper forklift training programs for their operators and perform daily pre-shift inspections are more likely to reduce forklift accidents in addition to helping lower their downtime and costs. Additionally, the pre-shift inspections can help identify maintenance issues to further increase forklift life, develop operator skills and potentially lower forklift downtime.

Do all forklift operators need to be certified?

  • Yes, everyone needs to be certified to operate a forklift. It is state and federal law. The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA 1910.178 (i)(6)) requires all forklift operators be certified before operating a lift truck or warehouse product. Proper training and evaluation is completed prior to the operation of industrial forklifts.
  • The goal of OSHA forklift certification is to reduce the number of injuries due to unsafe lift truck usage in the workplace. This certification may benefit employers by reducing accidents, lowering cost of insurance [CK1] and reducing lift truck and property damage.

What is the forklift license (certification)?

  • A forklift license is actually a certificate. The certificate indicates that the employee has been trained and evaluated by the employer to operate the truck safely. It is required by OSHA that the employer certifies the training. License issuance is used by employers to show the employee is certified to operate a forklift in their particular application.
  • The certification includes the name of the lift truck operator, the date of training and the evaluation, and the identity of the person performing the forklift training and evaluation. The OSHA standards require employers to certify that each operator has been trained and evaluated.

How do I become forklift certified?

  • The forklift certification process can vary based on who is providing the training. A formal instructional or educational training on forklift operation must be provided. This can include a lecture, online training courses and videos, written materials and study guides and other educational information on forklift operation and safety.
  • OSHA also requires hands-on training sessions take place at your warehouse location. Training should be completed by people who have knowledge, training and experience to train forklift operators. This ensures that operators are trained and certified to handle the complexities of their specific work environment.
  • After training is completed, there must be an evaluation of operator performance in the workplace. Training must meet OSHA 1910.178 standards and also cover forklift and workplace-related topics. You can find the specific training topics listed in the 1910.178 (i) standard.

What do I learn during forklift certification training?

Forklift certification training will teach you how to safely operate a forklift in different workspace environments. OSHA requires certification training providers to cover specific topics that are truck and worksite specific. These topics include but are not limited to:

  • Operating instructions
  • Differences between forklifts and cars
  • Maneuvering and steering
  • Visibility
  • Surface conditions
  • Load manipulation
  • Pedestrian traffic
  • Narrow aisle operation
  • Ramps and sloped surfaces
  • Hazardous conditions


How old do you have to be to get forklift certified?

  • According to OSHA, you must be at least 18 years old to get certified. There is no maximum age limit. Under Federal law, it is illegal for anyone under 18 years to operate a forklift.


Who provides forklift training and certification?

Some of the most common questions asked about forklift certification include, "How can I get a forklift license near me?" and "Where can I find a forklift training near me?" It turns out, the answer may not be what you would expect.

  • OSHA, itself, is not required to provide training for forklift operators. The responsibility for forklift training falls solely on the employer. It is up to the employer to provide training themselves or to find outside sources that can train and certify their forklift operators.
  • One of our dealers can provide a comprehensive training program that addresses fundamentals and advanced knowledge in forklift safety, inspection and maintenance. Learn more about our forklift operator training program and contact a forklift dealer offering forklift training near you to schedule a session.

Are there different certificates for different forklift types?

  • As noted above, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that operators are trained and capable of operating forklift equipment safely. Just because an operator knows how to operate one type of truck does not mean they will automatically be capable of operating all forklifts.
  • Our forklift dealer can provide different materials during forklift certification training based on the particular lift trucks that operators will use in the workplace.

Is there a written forklift certification test?

  • A written test is often given to evaluate and prove that the forklift operator is trained and knowledgeable enough to operate a lift truck during forklift certification. It is not, however, specifically required by OSHA, although some form of evaluation will be required to achieve certification.
  • It should be noted that a written test is often one of the easiest methods for evaluation. Your state may require a written test through an OSHA-approved safety and health program.

How much does it cost to get forklift certified?

  • The cost of forklift certification can vary depending on the provider of the training. Online forklift certification courses can cost as low as $50 and range upwards of $200. In-person training usually takes one or two days to successfully complete the course and the costs typically range from $150-$200 depending on your location. 

How long is a forklift certification good for?

  • Once every three years, employers must conduct an evaluation of each industrial forklift operator. This includes training similar to what the forklift operator would have experienced during their previous training.
  • Refresher training is required if the operator has been observed driving in an unsafe manner, has been involved in an accident or an incident that was a near miss, has received an evaluation that indicates unsafe operation, is assigned to drive a different type of forklift or if a workplace condition changes that affects safe operation. An operator evaluation is required after refresher training.

Where to get forklift certified? How to find forklift certification training near me?

  • We offer an OSHA-certified training program through our local forklift dealers. Train-the-trainer programs are also available that allow you to have an OSHA certified trainer in your workplace. Contact your local dealer for more information.
  • A person with the necessary knowledge and experience must conduct training for lift truck operators and evaluate their competence. Trainers may be the employer, another employee or another qualified person. The training and evaluation do not have to be conducted by a single individual, but can be done by several people provided each one is qualified. Forklift trainers do not need a certification; it is the employer’s responsibility to determine if a trainer is qualified to train operators.

Are forklift operator requirements different by state?

  • It depends. At the moment, 28 states have OSHA-approved, state-wide occupational safety and health programs. These programs are designed to have the same or more stringent standards than OSHA’s occupational safety and health standards. To find out if your state has a specific state plan, visit the OSHA State Plans page.
  • Your state may have employer responsibilities and workers’ rights requirements that relate to forklifts that you will need to follow. If you have specific questions or concerns, either as an employer or as a worker, you can contact your regional or area OSHA Office or call 1-800-321-OSHA.

Are written records of forklift certification required?

  • Yes. The employer must keep written records of forklift training and certification for their forklift operators. This includes dates of training, evaluation dates and the names of the person(s) who provided evaluation or training.
  • There is no established format that OSHA requires businesses to use to keep records, but it is important to ensure your business has copies handy, either print or digital, in the event that an inspector wishes to see them.
  • According to OSHA, records must be maintained for three years unless training and certification happens before the three-year period, then the company can keep the most recent certification information. It may be ideal to keep ongoing records of training and certification beyond the three-year period as it shows complacency over a long period of time.

What is a Forklift Certification Card?

  • A Forklift Certification Card is proof that you have successfully completed a forklift training course and are certified to operate a forklift. There is no official forklift certification card template that training providers must use, but all cards, if not providing a certificate, will have information regarding the name of the license holder, the date of the training, the date of the evaluation, and the name of the person providing the training. Cards will also typically have the forklift license number of the operator as well as the expiration date of the certification. It is important to keep your certification card up-to-date and in a safe place.

What are the penalties for not certifying forklift operators?

  • Penalties and fines for not certifying forklift operators are typically handled on a case-by-case basis. The severity of penalties often depends on whether the citation is serious, willful or other than serious.
  • Typical penalties of violation of OSHA’s 1910.178 standards for materials handling and storage can be quite severe. Monetary fines can go up to $250,000 and imprisonment can occur in some cases.

Is there a hearing or vision test for forklift certification?

  • Currently, there is no hearing or vision test required to receive an OSHA forklift certification. So, while there are no specific OSHA forklift certification requirements related to hearing or vision tests, the responsibility ultimately lies on the employer to determine if an employee has any physical impairments that would endanger themselves or others in the workplace.

Am I forklift certified if I have a drivers license?

  • No, a driver’s license and a forklift operating license, or certificate, are distinct from one another. Only operators that have forklift training certification are eligible to operate a forklift truck under law, and that certification has to be renewed every three years. In fact, it is not a requirement under federal OSHA law to own a valid driver’s license to operate a forklift truck.
  • If an employer knows an operator has a mental or physical impairment, such as a vision or hearing impairment, and allows the certified forklift operator to operate a forklift, the employer could be cited under the General Duty Clause by OSHA, which guarantees all workers in a workplace the right to a safe and healthy work environment that is free of preventable hazards.

What are the benefits to forklift certification?

  • In addition to complying with OSHA regulations to avoid fines, there are a number of added benefits to having your forklift operators trained and certified.
  • Forklift safety training covers regular inspections of forklift equipment, which can help reduce the likeliness of accidents and help increase the life of your lift truck equipment.
  • Fewer accidents and mistakes can also translate into higher productivity and efficiency while operating lift trucks.
  • A workplace attitude of safety is contagious, and if your employees reinforce the importance of safety, it can greatly improve the overall moral of your workers. While they may feel competent to operate a forklift, they may worry about others in their work environment who could cause an accident. Having regular training and certifying your forklift operators can show your employees that you care about their well-being.

If I hire an experienced forklift operator, do they have to be retrained?

  • No. If an operator has received previous training that is applicable to the lift truck and working conditions in your environment, additional training is not required if the operator has been evaluated and found competent. However, they would need to be trained on any new topics found in your particular application.

How long does it take to get forklift certified?

  • Forklift certification can usually be completed in one or two days depending on where you receive your training. Most classes run about six to eight hours of classroom learning coupled with hands-on equipment training in a warehouse. After completing the course students will receive their certificate and an operator's license.  

Can I get forklift certified online?

  • There are many providers advertising a forklift certification online by completing an online course followed by a short, written test. However, forklift certification is a two-step process that will require a third-party evaluator to provide a hands-on assessment of the operator’s abilities before completing the certification process.

When should my operators take refresher training?

OSHA requires that operators be evaluated for performance at least every three years for certification renewal, however refresher training may be needed on a more frequent basis. Refresher training may be required for specific circumstances, such as but not limited to:

  • An operator is observed not following proper procedures
  • An operator was in an accident or had a close call
  • An operator received a poor performance evaluation
  • An operator is driving a new type of forklift
  • There is a change in the workplace, such as a new layout or additional hazards
  • The employer’s insurance company recommends refresher training
  • There is a change in management that may impact safety procedures

Other things to know

  • Lift truck operators are required to complete a training program that is specific to the type of forklift they will be operating and the type of working conditions they will encounter.

Additional Resources & Information

Visit OSHA’s website or contact your local forklift dealer to learn more about forklift safety and our forklift training program.

Forklift Certification Study Materials

The below forklift safety training resources may be helpful for educating your forklift operators in your workplace on the importance of forklift safety.

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