Forklift Operator Qualifications

The risk of accidents and personal injury can skyrocket if forklift operators do not meet these qualifications and requirements. With the current legislation that OSHA is promoting related to forklift training, these risk factors can be minimized.

Qualified forklift drivers can be a great asset to a business, which means a skilled operator can also be easily hired by employers if they possess the right qualities.

Here are the qualities you need to possess before entering this field.

OSHA compliance training

This is the number one qualification an operator must possess before pursuing this career. Taking forklift training at a school near you is the very first step to consider. If you're unsure about how to choose the right forklift training school, you can learn more here.

OSHA mandates the implementation of a safety program at every workplace. This instructs businesses to prioritize safety by providing regular forklift training to lift truck drivers. Now, the question is: what if you are an individual without prior knowledge or employment? You can enroll in a forklift training school that offers OSHA-compliant certification.

High school diploma or GED certificate

A General Education Development (GED) is equivalent to a high school graduate's level of knowledge. This certificate is awarded to those who have passed an internationally recognized exam. Before taking the test, you must meet certain requirements.

Forklift trainees aiming to become certified operators should have the competency of a high school graduate or have passed the GED test. Forklift driving jobs involve more than just moving and handling materials; there are technical aspects of the job that require literacy and numerical skills. Therefore, you must meet these requirements before an employer can offer employment. 

Minimum Age Requirements

Being 18 years old or above is the minimum age requirement to become a licensed forklift operator. The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits businesses from employing individuals under the age of 18 for non-agricultural work. This means a large portion of the market is affected by this act. The agricultural sector comprises only a small part of the market. This indicates that individuals under 18 who wish to drive a forklift may find it challenging to get hired, as only a handful of businesses can employ them.

On the job training

Although there's no formal education required to be hired as a forklift driver in the US, other than a high school diploma or GED, many employers prefer operators to have completed a certain number of hours of on-the-job training.

On-the-job training and mentoring are typical ways to learn the "dos" and "don'ts" of forklift operation. However, since forklift driving is a hazardous occupation, employers prefer applicants to have formal training compliant with OSHA forklift regulations.

English proficiency

Proficiency in the English language is also a significant concern for companies hiring foreigners whose first language is not English.

This qualification is essential because operators must communicate effectively with each other and their supervisors. Miscommunication can have serious consequences, potentially affecting production quotas and upsetting the business owner.

Good communication is also crucial for preventing accidents at the workplace. Statistics show that drivers who aren't paying attention or don't communicate with others at the workplace are the leading cause of accidents.

A driver must be physically robust

Driving of lift for long hours can exhaust energy that is why operator must have an excellent physical condition.

Medical Assessment

This qualification is not legally required but is strongly recommended.

An individual must pass a medical history review, blood pressure check, vision screening to assess depth and distance perception, and meet other physical condition requirements as a standard procedure before getting hired.

No alcohol and substance abuse

This screening process can be quite unsettling, especially if you're concerned about others discovering something about you. Not all states require these qualifications.

However, in Simsbury, Connecticut, a federal law is in place to ensure an alcohol and drug-free workplace.

Always be committed to adhering to federal laws related to forklift operations.

Other Important Skills to Have

Driving a forklift is more than just moving stuff. It's a big responsibility. Let's talk about the special skills you need to be really good at it.

1. Knowing Forklift Buttons and Levers Well:

A forklift has many buttons and levers. It's important to know them all.

  • All Controls: There are buttons for lifting, moving, and more. A good driver knows them all by heart.
  • Different Forklifts: Some forklifts are different from others. A great driver can use many types without problems.

2. Being Safe:

Safety first! A good driver always thinks about safety.

  • Seeing Problems Early: A smart driver sees problems before they happen, like a shaky stack of boxes.
  • Safe Even When It's Hard: Sometimes, the floor is wet or it's dark. A good driver knows how to be safe all the time.

3. Handling Loads Smartly:

Lifting things is a big job. Doing it the right way is very important.

  • Balancing Heavy Stuff: If something is very heavy on one side, a driver knows how to balance it.
  • Special Items: Some things are breakable or shaped funny. A good driver knows how to lift them without problems.

4. Driving Well in All Places:

Warehouses can be tricky with lots of stuff everywhere. A good driver knows how to move around easily.

  • Small Spaces: Sometimes there isn't much room. A skilled driver can move around without hitting anything.
  • All Kinds of Floors: Whether it's a slippery warehouse floor or a bumpy outside path, a good driver can handle it.

5. Talking to Others Clearly:

A forklift driver works with other people. Talking clearly is very important.

  • Using Hands and Arms: Sometimes it's too loud to speak. Using hand signals helps a lot.
  • Working with Friends: A driver needs to work well with others, especially when doing hard tasks together.

6. Using Different Kinds of Forklifts:

Not all forklifts are the same. A top driver knows many types.

  • Switching Types: Some forklifts are tall, some are small. A good driver can use all of them.
  • Knowing Each One's Tricks: Each forklift is special. A smart driver knows what each one can do.

7. Solving Problems Fast:

Sometimes things go wrong. A great driver can fix problems quickly.

  • Thinking Quickly: If something unexpected happens, a driver needs to decide fast.
  • Always Safe: Even when fixing problems, safety is always first.

8. Always Learning:

The best drivers always want to learn more.

  • New Safety Rules: There are always new safety tips. A good driver learns them all.
  • More Training: There are classes and lessons to become even better. Top drivers always want to learn.


Being a forklift driver is a big job in warehouses. It's not just about driving. A good driver knows the machine well, is always safe, and can handle different tasks easily. As things change and get more advanced, forklift drivers need to keep learning. If you want to be a great forklift driver or hire one, remember: it's important to have the right skills. If you want to learn more, search for "Forklift Driver Skills." A good driver makes work better and safer for everyone.

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