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Forklift Fundamentals

Forklift Fundamentals


Here’s a quiz: Which four-wheeled vehicle is among the toughest, hardest-working and has, at times, a center of gravity several feet off the ground? If you guessed monster truck, you’d be wrong. The correct answer is forklift. Despite the fact forklifts are slow and not very sexy, they demand a lot of attention from their drivers. And if they don’t get it, they can hurt you!

While forklifts make work easier, operators and bystanders can be seriously injured or killed if the proper safety protocols are not followed. Because of that, it is vital forklift operators remain completely inside the cab while operating the equipment. Operators who stick their heads from beneath overhead guards run the risk of being hit by falling objects or striking their head against something outside the cab. And it’s not just heads that are in danger; forklift drivers also need to keep their hands and feet inside the cab. Protruding limbs are likely to get caught on objects as the forklift passes by, pulling the driver out of the cab and causing serious injuries.

Another important element of forklift safety is operators knowing how much weight the forks can handle safely. Some operators might assume if the forks can lift the weight, it’s safe to do so. This is not true and could lead to serious injury if the weight causes the forklift to lose its balance and topple over. Bystanders could also be crushed if the cargo falls off the forks.

In addition, forklift operators need to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Sudden drop-offs, hills, potholes, walls and other obstructions could lead to disastrous consequences for the operator. Bystanders and forklift drivers also need to stay out of each other’s way because a collision could be unforgiving.

Operators must receive site-specific training as well as instruction on the particular forklift they will be driving. This training must be documented and copies of lesson plans kept on file. In some circumstances, such as a mishap or near-miss incident, refresher training should be provided to operators. Otherwise, the performance of all operators must be evaluated at least every three years.

Mishap prevention measures

Forklift mishap prevention is a significant challenge to Army leadership. Operator and material-handling errors are the most hazardous types of forklift accidents. Mishap reports have documented operators who had improper licensing, failed to follow procedures and safety standards, lacked ground guides, worked without supervision for difficult jobs or lacked training for the specific forklift in use. The following is a list of procedures unit leaders must implement:

  • Ensure your forklift driver training program is to Army standard and enforce the standards set out in Army Regulation 600-55.
  • Ensure strict compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard, 1910.178(I)(1), Forklift Safety Standards.
  • Enforce the use of seat belts when forklifts are in operation.

Eliminating hazards in the workplace is the right thing to do and makes good business sense. In addition to OSHA compliance, other benefits include reducing injuries for Soldiers and employees, reduced workers compensation rates, lower forklift maintenance costs and less product damage.

All licensed forklift operators are to be certified that they understand the safety aspects of forklift operations. Certification will be accomplished by attending a safety class, passing a written test and demonstrating their ability to operate a forklift safely. Before taking a safety class, operators must have a valid state driver’s license; a current Defensive Driver’s Course card; DA Form 348, Equipment Operator’s Qualification Record; and OF 346 - U.S. Government Motor Vehicle Operator’s Identification Card.

Licensed forklift operators who pass both the written and hands-on portions of the test will receive forklift certification as follows:

  • DA Form 348 – date certification is completed.
  • OF 346 – overstamped with class, powered by and capacity of forklift.

Personnel without a forklift license will be issued a learner's permit — after passing the written test. They will be required to have a minimum of 30 hours of training with a licensed forklift operator. Supervisors will submit an MFR that personnel have attained the required hours of training and are capable of operating a forklift without direct supervision. Personnel with a learner's permit will demonstrate their ability to safely operate a forklift and the following documentation:

  • DA Form 348 – date certification is completed.
  • OF 346 – overstamped with class, powered by and capacity of forklift

Forklifts make moving heavy loads a breeze. Failure to follow standard operating procedures, however, can lead to serious injuries and even death. Ensuring employees are properly trained to operate a forklift will go a long way toward creating an injury-free workplace.


OSHA’s Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift) eTool focuses on the safe operation of forklifts in order to prevent employee injury. Check it out at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/pit/index.html.

  • 17 September 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 1101
  • Comments: 0
Categories: On-DutyWorkplace