How Old Must You Be to Operate a Forklift? OSHA Age Requirements for Forklift Drivers

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Let’s explore forklift age requirements!

We crafted this guide to answer all your questions about age limits for operating forklifts. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned forklift operator. A warehouse manager. Or someone simply seeking information…

If you want to find the answer, keep scrolling!

How Old Must You Be to Operate a Forklift? A Straightforward Answer…

To operate a forklift in the U.S., you must be 18 in most workplaces. But, there are exceptions for specific agricultural tasks. In those cases, those under 18 may be able to operate a forklift. To do this legally, you must follow the rules set by your local authorities.

Understanding the Age Requirement: The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) & the Fair Labor Standards Act

Two critical federal authorities established the minimum age for forklift operations in the United States. One is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The other is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). OSHA’s primary focus is on workplace safety. The FLSA is responsible for setting national labor standards. 

The FLSA specifically addresses the forklift operator minimum ages in 29 CFR 570.58: Occupations involved in the operation of power-driven hoisting apparatus. This prohibits individuals under the age of 18 years from engaging in hazardous tasks. That includes forklift operations outside of agriculture. In agriculture, exceptions might allow some 16 year olds to operate forklifts.

Forklift age requirements are consistent across the United States. But, some states may have more regulations. So, it’s advisable to consult your state’s labor department or OSHA for specific rules. Prioritizing safety and compliance with the law remains of utmost importance.

Forklift Certification & Training Requirements for Operators

OSHA says much more about operating powered industrial trucks than just that you need to be 18 or over. Employers and forklift workers must follow specific safety regulations. They’re contained in 29 CFR 1910.178. Here are some of the primary OSHA forklift standards governing training and certification:

Enroll in a Training Program

OSHA prohibits employees from operating a lift truck without training. So, to become a certified forklift operator, you’ll need to take an OSHA-compliant forklift training program. These programs must follow OSHA’s safety rules. For example, they’ll need to cover specific truck and work-environment topics. 

Your employer must provide this training to you before you can operate a lift truck. You can also take training before getting a job.

Theory (Classroom) Training

Theoretical training takes place in a classroom or online. Here, you’ll gain crucial knowledge for safe forklift operation. Courses typically cover many aspects of forklifts, including:

This classroom part builds a strong foundation in forklift operation principles.

Practical (Hands-on) Training

Hands-on training allows you to put what you’ve learned into practice. You’ll work with an experienced instructor’s guidance. You’ll operate a forklift. You’ll show your ability to perform tasks safely and efficiently. You can only do this part in person.

Evaluation and Competence Assessment

Your employer or a trainer must make sure you’re competent to operate in the work environment. OSHA requires this. They must ensure you’re ready to safely operate a forklift. This assessment covers various aspects. For instance, maneuvering the forklift, handling loads, and following safety protocols.

Certification Award

If your employer is satisfied you’re competent, you’ll receive your forklift certification. This certification recognizes your qualifications to operate a forklift safely. It’s a vital credential when taking on the responsibilities of a forklift operator.

Refresher Training

Employers need to provide refresher training to those in their employ. OSHA says that must happen at least every 3 years to comply with regulations. You may need to take it sooner if one of several scenarios happens. For example, you’re observed operating unsafely. Or if you will be using a lift truck significantly different from what you’ve been trained on.

Why Forklift Training Is Important: Better Safety, Productivity, and More Benefits

Forklift training is not only mandatory by law. It’s also beneficial for operators and employers. Making sure only trained forklift operates use these machines offers many benefits:

Better Safety

Forklift training is essential for creating a safe operation in the workplace. Especially considering that forklift accidents occur about 6,654 times every year. That’s according to the National Safety Council’s data between 2011 and 2021. These incidents encompass fatal and severe non-fatal workplace injuries requiring days off work.

Improved Productivity

Well-trained forklift operators are more productive. This results in smoother workflows, increased output, and reduced operational costs. Additionally, this training minimizes downtime. That’s crucial because about 6,583 non-fatal forklift injuries occur each year. These injuries are severe enough to require days off work.

Maintain Compliance With OSHA and Other Authorities

Forklift training ensures strict compliance with laws and regulations. This can help avert fines, penalties, and legal woes. Recently, companies have faced hefty fines for hiring underage forklift operators.

Unlocking Career Advancement Opportunities

The number of forklift operator jobs is expected to grow by 4% until 2032. That offers job security. The median annual wage for forklift operators was $41,730 in 2022. That indicates a good earning potential. By investing in training, you can set yourself up for a brighter professional future.

What Can Happen If You Operate a Forklift Without Certification

Using a forklift without the proper certification can result in negative consequences. The following highlights the need to follow forklift rules:

Safety Risks

Operating a forklift without certification poses significant safety risks. That includes accidents causing injuries, fatalities, or property damage. Uncertified individuals may be held legally responsible for damages resulting from such accidents.

Financial Penalties

Violating forklift operation and certification regulations can result in substantial fines and penalties. OSHA or state labor departments can impose these. Fines range from $15,625 to $156,259 per violation. They vary based on the violation’s severity and frequency.

Employment Consequences

Uncertified forklift operations can lead to employment consequences. For instance, suspension or termination for violating company policies. It may also damage an individual’s reputation and credibility as a forklift operator.

Career Impact

Lack of certification can hinder future job prospects within the material handling industry. That can limit opportunities and benefits available to certified forklift operators.

Real-Life Cases

The negative consequences of underage forklift operation aren’t just theoretical. Recent cases highlight the real-life risks and legal ramifications. For example, companies in Kentucky, Minnesota, and Alabama have faced penalties, including fines and other consequences, for employing underage forklift operators.

How to Become a Forklift Driver in 5 Steps

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a forklift driver:

Step 1: Choose Your Training Method

Getting certified starts by deciding whether you want to pursue online or in-person training. Online courses are known for their flexibility and cost-effectiveness. But they lack hands-on instruction. In contrast, in-person courses offer valuable hands-on training and guidance. Still, they may require a bit more time and financial investment.

Step 2: Complete Formal Forklift Operator Certification

You must find an online forklift training program if you opt for online training. Make sure that it’s compliant with OSHA standards. One way is to ensure the course covers all the topics required by OSHA.

If you prefer in-person training, enroll in a local forklift certification course. You may find them at your local community college or a dedicated training center. This is critical to get hands-on training with forklifts.

With your certification, it’s time to embark on your job search. Start by updating your resume to prominently feature your forklift skills and certification. Explore job openings on specialized websites tailored to forklift positions. 

Additionally, consider joining relevant social media groups and forums. These can help you stay up-to-date on job openings. Don’t hesitate to contact local companies within the industry. Ask them about possible job openings.

Step 4: Ace the Interview

Preparing for interviews is crucial. Conduct thorough research on the prospective employer and the job you’re applying for. Dress professionally and make sure you arrive punctually for the interview. 

Be sure to bring essential documents. That includes your updated resume, forklift certification, and references. During the interview, answer questions confidently and express your interest in the position.

Step 5: Obtain Final Forklift Certification

The last step is obtaining your final certification from your employer. If you still need to, inform your employer about your training and certification. You’ll typically need to present your certification documentation. Your employer will then need to observe you operating a forklift in the workplace.

If your employer approves, they’ll grant you the final certification. The certification must include specific details. For instance, your name, training date, and trainer’s name. This document signifies your readiness to work as a forklift operator.

Forklift Age Requirement FAQs

What are the OSHA regulations for forklifts?

Some essential Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) forklift regulations include that forklift operators must be 18 or older, trained, evaluated, and certified. They must also follow all safety rules, inspect forklifts daily, and report defects. Forklift users must not allow any authorized modifications or attachments. There shall be no carrying of passengers or exceeding capacity. Operators must also handle loads cautiously and properly park forklifts. You can find the complete list of OSHA forklift regulations online.

How does OSHA classify forklifts?

OSHA classifies forklifts into seven categories based on features and use: Class I: Electric rider trucks for indoor, smooth surfaces. Class II: Narrow aisle electric trucks for tight spaces. Class III: Electric hand trucks for pallets. Class IV: Gas/diesel forklifts for indoor use. Class V: Gas/diesel forklifts for indoor/outdoor rough surfaces. Class VI: Electric and gas tractors for towing. Class VII: Rough terrain forklifts for uneven terrain.

Is a license required to operate a forklift?

You don’t need a federal license to operate a forklift in the U.S. Instead, OSHA mandates that employers certify their employees before using a lift truck. Certification requires formal instruction, hands-on experience, and passing a performance evaluation by the employer. Successful completion leads to receiving a certificate and/or wallet card from the employer.

Do you have to be 18 to drive a forklift?

In most workplaces in the U.S., the age to operate a forklift is 18 years or older. That age restriction is mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). But there are exceptions for agricultural employment. In some cases, minors under the age of 18 may be able to operate lift trucks in farm settings. This depends on local rules and with the consent of their parent or someone in their stead.

What can happen if you drive a forklift underage?

Driving a forklift underage can lead to severe consequences. For example, lack of experience and judgment may result in accidents. It’s also illegal. Fines, penalties, and employer sanctions, including OSHA actions, can result.

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

In Ohio, you must be at least 18 years old to operate a forklift in non-agricultural settings. This is in line with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Like all states, Ohio follows this federal standard for forklift certification age requirements.

How old do you have to be to drive a forklift in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, you must be 18 to get forklift certification. Unless you qualify under certain agricultural exceptions. These settings follow the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). All states, including South Carolina, adhere to this rule.

How old do you have to be to drive a forklift in Georgia?

You can’t operate a list truck until you’re at least 18 years of age in Georgia. There are certain exceptions for agriculture. Every state in the union requires forklift operators to be 18. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates this. As does the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

What Next?

You came seeking clarity on forklift age requirements.

You’ve learned about the regulations and age limits governing forklift operation, including exceptions.

You’re now well-equipped to navigate the world of forklifts with confidence.

But there’s always more to explore in this realm.

For the latest insights and updates, check out our latest blog posts.

See you there!

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