There is a large market for forklift operators. Nearly all construction sites, warehouses, and shipping docks need at least one forklift operator. Forklift operators usually need a high school diploma or a GED in order to be hired. People who operate forklifts do not need any sort of license or certificate, but they do need extensive training.
The employer must train a forklift operator. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that a forklift operator pass formal and practical training classes and an evaluation before being allowed to operate a forklift independently without supervision. There is no set format that the training must take and there is no license, but the employer must document that the training is completed before the operator is allowed to work. The forklift training does not have to be taught by a professional trainer, anyone who has already completed the training and is experienced and knowledgeable enough to teach the training can do so.
OSHA regulates that a forklift operator’s training program have three parts. First, the trainee must participate in a formal training. This is a classroom type training that teaches proper forklift operation and safety procedures. This class can involve watching videos about forklift operation and reading instruction manuals. After the trainee completes the formal training, it is time for the practical lessons. This is when the trainee actually operates the forklift under the trainer’s supervision. The final step is the evaluation. The trainer watches the trainee operate the forklift and checks to see that the trainee is operating the machine correctly and is following all safety precautions. After the trainer documents the evaluation the trainee is the able to independently operate the forklift. A forklift operator must be evaluated every three years to ensure that the proper guidelines are still being followed.
A forklift operator can expect to make between $18,000 and $30,000 in a year. Many of the jobs that require forklift are unionized, providing the forklift operators union protection. There is limited advancement opportunity for forklift operators.