Get thee to…forklift school? OSHA now requires training for equipment operators

A new federal safety law means more schooling for your forklift operators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers operating industrial powered warehouse equipment – including forklifts, hand trucks, and rider trucks – to be officially trained and certified by Dec.1, 1999.

OSHA implemented the regulations, known as Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training, in December 1998 “to limit the amount of accidents with powered industrial trucks that occur within the warehouse,” says Martha Tomas-Flynn, compliance product manager for Sunrise, FL-based cataloger G. Neil, which sells human resources and training manuals to businesses. Businesses that fail to comply could be fined as much as $7,000 per violation.

The warehouse equipment safety training consists of three parts: formal instruction, practical training, and evaluation. Tomas-Flynn recommends that you allow two to three hours to complete the equipment training. A qualified trainer such as a warehouse or human resources employee with knowledge, training, or experience in the warehouse should lead the safety course; you don’t have to hire an OSHA-certified expert.

Injuries – even deaths – involving forklifts are not uncommon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18,754 cases of nonfatal occupational injuries involving a forklift occurred in 1997. And the U.S. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported 110 cases of job-related fatalities involving forklifts in 1997.

Many catalogers are taking no chances. “All of our forklift operators are already OSHA-certified,” says Armand Dellaratta, controller of Saks’s New York-based Folio apparel and home decor catalog. “Our loss prevention team in our distribution facility takes the new OSHA requirements very seriously.”

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