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Industrial truck operators, also known as forklift operators, are responsible for lifting and transporting heavy loads. However, it’s imperative that the operator must hold a valid OSH Forklift Certification in order to operate a forklift.

For you to earn this certification, you’ll need to complete training that includes classroom instruction, hands-on practice and a written test. In this blog post, we will answer some of the more frequently asked questions regarding the certification process, as well as describe the steps that are required to become certified.

What is a forklift operator?

Forklift operators are trained professionals who are accountable for moving heavy materials using different kinds of industrial machinery. They are typically responsible for working under the direction of warehouse managers, managers of supply chains, or foremen at various construction sites. Many businesses depend on forklift drivers to safely move large or heavy items, and a forklift operator must own an OSH Forklift Certification from a valid OSHA-approved program in order to do his job in compliance with the laws.

What is an OSH Forklift Certification?

Forklift operators are required to obtain certification from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or an OSHA-approved training program before being allowed to operate a lift truck, forklift, or any other warehouse product. Certification is necessary by law for the safe operation of forklifts in order to cut down on the number of injuries on the job owing to unsafe equipment operation.

Why is an OSH forklift operator certification important?

Forklifts, also known as “powered industrial trucks” or “lift trucks”, are used by businesses to move big or heavy items around warehouses, storage facilities, and construction sites. Because of the heavy loads carried by these machines, it is critical to ensure the safety of the operators and other workers. Focused and trained operators help a lot in the prevention of accidents, such as overturned forklifts and worker injuries.

Therefore, to bag a job as a forklift operator, it is mandatory to get certified by OSHA. This shows that you know how to run the machine safely and reduce its risks. To put it in another way, without proper certification, you won’t be legally prohibited from operating a forklift.

When you get a certificate, you help yourself by:

  • Reducing the chance of getting hurt
  • Securing a better job by being well-trained on different kinds of equipment and
  • Keeping a job and moving up in the company

Employers too, can benefit in more than one way by ensuring that their operators own a valid OSH Forklift Certification. These benefits include:

  • Better protection for workers
  • Less equipment and property damage
  • More productivity and fewer mistakes and accidents
  • Positive morale among workers because they know their employer cares for their health and safety
  • Reduced premium costs for insurance and 
  • A lower probability of being sued.

The training to become a certified forklift operator also includes instruction on how to perform basic equipment inspections and repairs, which can help extend the life of the truck and reduce the number of times it breaks down.

OSHA has the authority to levy hefty fines against an employer for each unlicensed forklift operator (i.e. if they find out that a forklift operator does not possess the necessary certification).

How to earn an OSH forklift operator certification

You can earn your certification as a forklift operator by taking an OSHA-approved course in either a classroom or online learning platform. Many individuals prefer to receive their education in person, either through a regional trade school or an organisation in their immediate community. These classes require students to complete work in the classroom take a written exam, and undergo practical training and evaluation.

If you want to become a certified forklift operator, the following are the steps that you need to take:

1. Determine the type of forklift certification you’re after

Your employer needs to provide you with training in order for you to operate the truck they have given you to drive safely. According to OSHA’s definitions, there are seven different categories of powered industrial trucks:

Class 1: Sit-down, electric, counterbalanced trucks (solid and pneumatic tires)

Class 2: Narrow-aisle electric trucks (solid tires)

Class 3: Electric hand/rider trucks (solid tires)

Class 4: Vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (solid tires)

Class 5: Vehicles with an internal combustion (IC) engine (pneumatic tires)

Class 6: Electric and IC tractors (solid and pneumatic tires)

Class 7: Rough Terrain Forklift (pneumatic tires)

2. Sign up for a certification course

Find an OSHA-approved program in your city. You can find them through your employer, forklift dealers, community colleges or vocational schools. Certification requires classroom training and hands-on driving.

3. Take classes

The first part of forklift operation training is safety, including compliance with OSHA rules, learning driving techniques, and forklift maintenance. The training course is required to comply with OSHA standards. The duration of these classes ranges anywhere from six to eight hours total and includes lectures, videos, and written materials.

4. Pass the exam

After you finish your assignments, you will have to take a written test. Students usually need at least a 75% score to move on with their training.

5. Complete hands-on training

Once you pass the exam, you must train and practice on forklifts to demonstrate your skills. This includes forklift inspection, loading, lifting, tight spaces, and driving on inclined terrains. 

The trainer evaluates your skills, safety, and efficiency. If you already work for a company that uses forklifts, this training may occur at your workplace, and your employer may evaluate your skills.

6. Receive a final evaluation

The instructor will evaluate your driving grade and written exam score. If you pass both, you’re going to be certified. Your employer or a qualified trainer will certify your forklift operation.

Once certified, you can show employers your forklift license. This certificate will include your name, training date, and trainer’s name.

5 Forklift Licence Categories You Can Apply For

1-Day Course: Basic Training

Forklift operators who have a solid understanding of the equipment and a strong skill set for operating it but who lack formal OSH forklift certification training are the ideal candidates. This training programme lasts less time than others because the trainees already possess the skills necessary to become confident when operating forklifts. The certificate will specify which type of forklift the trainee is qualified to operate once it has been issued.

2-Day Course: Basic Training

This training course is comparatively longer than the 1-day course program, mainly because it is designed for trainees who have never operated a forklift before and do not have any confidence in doing so and want to obtain a beginner’s certificate. The certificate will specify which type of forklift the trainee is qualified to operate once it has been issued. 

Refresher Course

Participants in this training programme must own a certificate or licence that has either expired or will soon expire. After it has been issued, the forklift licence is only valid for a period of three years.

F-Endorsement Course

The F Endorsement is a separate course for forklift operators who want to drive on the road and is taught by a dedicated training instructor. The trainee will bring the certificate to the nearest AA or VTNZ office to get the F-endorsement. The application costs $44.20.

Supplemental Training Course

As the training course is specific to the type of forklift a trainee wants to learn, he can take a supplemental course to operate other trucks. After the course, the trainee’s forklift training will be added to his OSH forklift certification.

Related Regulations Governing Forklift Training in New Zealand

Health and Safety in Employment Act of 1992 (Approved Code of Practice)

Employers must ensure that employees who operate heavy machinery in the workplace, such as forklifts, have received proper training in the safe and effective operation of the machinery. If you are currently employed, it is your employer’s responsibility to provide you with the appropriate training.

Employers should make it standard practice to conduct routine performance reviews of forklift operators to ensure that their employees continue to demonstrate a sufficient level of competency and remain in compliance with the requirements of this Act. If the employer observes any signs that the operators’ ability to operate a forklift has deteriorated, they are required to take a training course to brush up on their skills.

At Roadtrain, we offer recognised OSH forklift certification training at Invercargill, Arrowtown, and Cromwell for anyone, including individuals who have not yet found employment. Take a look at our website for more information.

Forklift Operator Salary in NZ

In New Zealand, forklift operators make an average of NZ$18.22/hour. The salary ranges from NZ $32,121 to NZ $66,331, including bonuses, depending on experience and skills. Operators are also called storemen.

You can easily get hired if you can work nights, have good stamina, a good attitude, and of course, you underwent all necessary procedures to obtain forklift operator’s certificate. Luckily for you, there are a significant number of open positions in every region of New Zealand.


In order to operate a forklift legally in New Zealand, the driver must first obtain a valid licence to operate the vehicle. Section 20 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 2002 mandates driver training. If you have no driving experience, you can take training from a Worksafe-registered provider.

If you want to sign up for an OSH forklift certification program or need more information on the process, get in touch with us today!