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Forklift Operator - Job Description, Work Environment


Operator Training and Certification

Want to become a forklift operator? This page provides some insight in stepping into such a career - from what kind of person would be best suited to the job and certification all the way through to covering the necessary qualifications, and the work conditions that one would more than likely encounter.

Forklift Operator Overview


A forklift operator is a person who is responsible for controlling an industrial class vehicle - a forklift - for the purpose of maneuvering materials and stock. It's not as simple as picking up and dropping off - someone who is serious about such a career would have to learn how to accurately predict the weights of items that are scheduled for lifting. The weights are then recorded to ensure that the vehicle is safely able to handle the load - thus reducing the risk of an accident occurring. Operators are each responsible for their own forklift. This requires them to keep the parts well oiled, the tank full or batteries charged. Developing good relationships with the engineering department would go a long way.

Towards Certification and Career Path

Most people looking at taking up such a position usually carry experience gained from other related jobs found in say for example construction or warehouse work. Who does, and who doesn't get a chance at trying out for an operator position usually rests on the decision of management.

Under no circumstance though is anyone under the age of 17 able to take up such a job - ignoring this would be breaking the law. On the up-side though, no formal academic requirements are essential. Even a driver's license is not mandatory - the only time this would be required is if a forklift is being operated on public roads. That said, possession of a license does communicate to a potential employer that you are familiar with vehicle dynamics and also testifies to your co-ordination skills.

Some employers may also issue a series of tests designed to measure attributes such as - fitness, concentration span, reaction time and sight.

To start off, operator training is largely done off-site. Training should always try to be done with a center that is registered with the RTITB or ITSSAR. It then eventually moves back on-site in a form of "work experience." It is important that all on-site training is strictly supervised by experienced staff. More information on training..

Attributes and Abilities

So what characteristics would make a good forklift operator? Below is a quick list that anyone considering such a position would do well to go over.

  • Mental and physical fitness.
  • Full eyesight. No one is penalized if corrective eyewear is needed.
  • Full hearing.
  • Able to stay focused for a long period - this is particularly important as the same task may have to be repeated a number of times.
  • Well exercised hand-eye coordination.
  • Perceptive when it comes to weight estimates.
  • Be prepared to follow able to follow directions accurately

Skills that employers look for:

  • Ability to reason and work through problems
  • Ability to form relationships.
  • Ability to hold responsibilities
  • Ability to think mechanically a
  • Having personal values that correlate with the career is always an advantage. These values could be any of the following:
  • Like to have support and assurance from their employer. They want to be valued and recognized.
  • Like to be with people - extroverted and socially minded.
  • Are proud of the skill required to perform hands-on activities.
  • Like structure and order - respond to routine and authority.

Forklift Operator Work Environment

Forklift operators work in a specific type of work environment. People should know what they are getting themselves into as it is these conditions that they will be expected to function in every working day.

Constant communication needs to be maintained with superiors and work mates to ensure the right load is moved at the right time to the right place. Tasks may also have special instructions accompanying them.

Wearing protective gear will become second nature - safety goggles, gloves and hard hats. People should also not forget that they may also be required to work outside in a number of weather conditions - wind, rain and cold moving hazardous materials.

Work shifts vary from place to place, but overtime is always required at some point.

Salaries vary according to shift times and the materials being handled.