Are Forklift Certification Cards Required By OSHA?

are forklift certification cardsrequired by OSHA

OSHA doesn’t require certification cards, What it requires is that anyone who operates a forklift must be properly trained and certified. However, if you’re going to drive a forklift at work, you need to have proof attesting you’re certified, this is in the form of certification cards.

The essential point is that forklift operators must have solid evidence or documentation that confirms they have completed the necessary training and certification process. This documentation proves that the operator understands how to safely operate a forklift and is aware of the safety procedures and regulations.

Employers play a crucial role in ensuring workplace safety, especially when it comes to operating heavy machinery like forklifts. OSHA places the responsibility squarely on employers to make sure that their forklift operators are properly trained and competent. This isn’t just about going through the motions; it’s about ensuring that operators have the knowledge and skills to use the forklifts safely and effectively.

This means employers need to organize training sessions that cover all necessary safety instructions, operational procedures, and hands-on practice. After the training, they must evaluate the operators to ensure they’re competent. This could involve practical demonstrations of skill and understanding of safety practices.

Once an operator is deemed competent, the employer should maintain records of this certification process. While OSHA doesn’t require a specific “certification card,” having clear documentation of each operator’s training and competency is essential.

Certification Card Is Important In Case OSHA Inspector Visits the Workplace for Inspection

Having a forklift certification card readily available is significantly important, especially in the event of an OSHA inspector visiting the workplace for an inspection. While OSHA regulations themselves do not mandate the physical form of a certification card, they do require that employers have documentation proving their forklift operators have been properly trained and evaluated. Here’s why a certification card matters during an inspection:

Quick Verification of Compliance

  • Instant Proof: A certification card serves as immediate evidence that an operator has undergone the required training and evaluation. This can expedite the inspection process by providing instant verification, helping to satisfy compliance checks swiftly.
  • Details at a Glance: Certification cards typically include essential information such as the date of training, the types of equipment the operator is certified to handle, and the expiration of certification. This information helps inspectors quickly assess compliance with training requirements.

Enhances Workplace Safety Perception

  • Professionalism: Presenting well-organized and accessible certification documents, including cards, reflects positively on the company’s commitment to safety and compliance. It suggests a proactive approach to workplace safety and regulatory adherence.
  • Confidence in Training Programs: Having these documents readily available can also demonstrate confidence in the employer’s training programs, showing that they are thorough and in line with OSHA standards.

Reduces Risk of Penalties

  • Avoiding Fines: Failure to provide evidence of operator training and certification upon request can result in citations and fines. Having certification cards easily accessible helps avoid such outcomes by proving compliance.
  • Documentation of Retraining and Evaluations: Since OSHA requires retraining and evaluation under certain circumstances (like accidents or the introduction of new equipment), a certification card that is up to date can also serve as proof that these requirements have been met.

Best Practices for Employers

  • Maintain Comprehensive Records: Besides issuing certification cards, employers should maintain detailed training and certification records as part of their compliance documentation. This includes records of the training program’s content, evaluations, and any retraining sessions.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that all relevant documents, including certification cards, are readily accessible on-site. This could mean having a digital backup or a central file for physical documents.

In summary, while a physical forklift certification card is not a direct requirement of OSHA, having one serves as a practical tool for both operators and employers. It provides a straightforward means of proving compliance during inspections, reinforces a commitment to safety, and helps in managing the documentation required by OSHA regulations efficiently.

If Employer Is Going to Issue Certification Cards for Their Operators, What Information Should It Contain?

If an employer decides to issue certification cards for their forklift operators — even though it’s not specifically required by OSHA, but as a means to quickly verify training — these cards should contain key pieces of information to ensure they are informative and useful. Here’s what they should ideally include:

  1. Operator’s Name: To personally identify the certified individual.
  2. Operator’s Photograph: For added security and to prevent misuse of the certification card.
  3. Certification Date: The date when the operator completed the training program, to track when refreshers or updates might be necessary.
  4. Expiration Date: If applicable, indicating when the certification will need to be renewed. OSHA requires evaluation every three years, so this could be a useful reminder.
  5. Type of Equipment: Specify the type of forklift or powered industrial trucks the operator is certified to use, as different equipment might require different certifications.
  6. Training Program Details: Including the name of the training provider or the internal program used, to verify the source and quality of the training.
  7. Instructor’s Name/Signature: The name and signature of the person who conducted the training, adding an additional layer of verification.
  8. Employer’s Name: To indicate which employer the certification is associated with, as training is specific to the work environment and the types of forklifts used there.

Including this information on a certification card provides a quick reference for safety managers, supervisors, or inspectors to verify that an operator has been properly trained according to OSHA’s standards. It also reinforces the importance of proper training and certification in maintaining a safe working environment.

What If The Operator Lost His Certification, What Should He Do To Get a New One?

If a forklift operator loses their certification, here’s what they should do to get a new one, explained in simple steps:

  1. Talk to Your Boss: Immediately report the loss of your certification to your direct supervisor or the safety manager. It’s critical because OSHA requires that employers maintain an up-to-date record of all qualified forklift operators under regulation 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(6). This record must include the name of the operator, the date of the training, and the identity of the person who performed the training or evaluation.
  2. Check for Copies: Employers are mandated to keep a copy of each operator’s certification on file as part of their compliance with OSHA’s Powered Industrial Trucks standard (29 CFR 1910.178). These records are typically kept in HR or with a safety coordinator and are evidence of compliance during OSHA audits. Retrieving a copy from these records can quickly resolve the issue without needing retraining.
  3. Retake the Training: If no duplicate exists or if the certification is outdated (beyond the required three-year evaluation period as per OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(4)(iii)), retraining and reevaluation might be necessary. The training should cover both general principles of safe operation, a type-specific education for the particular make and model of forklift, and an evaluation of the operator’s performance in the workplace. The cost and length of training can vary but typically involve at least 4-8 hours of classroom instruction and practical evaluation, depending on the operator’s experience and skill level.
  4. Get a New Card: Once retraining (if required) is completed, the employer will issue a new certification document. This document, often in the form of a card for convenience, should include the operator’s name, the training date, and the evaluator’s name. While OSHA does not mandate a physical card, this practice is common in the industry for quick verification of operator credentials. The new card acts as proof of the operator’s continued qualification to operate powered industrial trucks in the workplace.

Operators should consider digital storage or a personal safety dossier to keep a backup of their certification and other essential safety credentials. This practice minimizes the risk of losing such critical documents and ensures quick recovery in case of loss.

Employer Can Customize His Certification Cards or Buy Ready-Made Ones

Employers have two main options when it comes to forklift certification cards for their operators: customizing their own or purchasing ready-made ones. Both approaches have their benefits, and the choice largely depends on the company’s preferences, size, and specific needs.

Customizing Certification Cards


  • Brand Identity: Custom cards can include the company’s logo and color scheme, reinforcing brand identity even in the details of certification.
  • Flexibility: Allows the inclusion of specific information relevant to the company’s operations, equipment, or safety protocols.
  • Tailored Design: Employers can design the layout to emphasize certain details, such as the operator’s photo, certification level, or types of equipment they are authorized to operate.


  • Cost: Depending on the quantity and design complexity, customizing cards can be more expensive than buying standard ones.
  • Time: Designing and printing custom cards require more time, especially if you’re starting from scratch or need to revise the design.
  • Resources: Requires access to a designer or design tools, as well as a relationship with a printing company unless you have the capability to print high-quality cards in-house.

Purchasing Ready-Made Certification Cards


  • Convenience: Ready-made cards are quick and easy to order, often available through safety training providers or online retailers.
  • Standardization: These cards typically include all the necessary fields that comply with industry standards, ensuring you don’t miss any critical information.
  • Cost-Effective: For small businesses or those with straightforward needs, ready-made cards can be more economical, especially when ordered in bulk.


  • Less Personalization: There’s limited room to customize the card to fit your company’s branding or specific needs.
  • Generic Design: The design and layout are standard, which might not align with your company’s image or preferences.

Decision Factors

When deciding between customizing their own certification cards or buying ready-made ones, employers should consider the following:

  • Budget: How much are they willing to spend?
  • Volume: How many cards do they need, and how often?
  • Urgency: How quickly do they need the cards?
  • Branding: How important is it to have the company’s brand on the cards?
  • Specific Needs: Are there specific information or design considerations that standard cards do not meet?

Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that all forklift operators have the necessary certification readily available and verifiable, in a format that meets the employer’s needs and preferences.

Remember That the Certification Card is Not Transferrable If the Operator Switch Jobs

That’s a crucial point to remember. When a forklift operator switches jobs, their certification card does not automatically follow them to the new employer. Here’s why:

Training Specific to the Workplace

  • Unique Environments: Forklift training often includes specific safety procedures and operational training related to the current workplace’s environment, equipment, and types of loads handled. A new workplace might have different types of forklifts, safety protocols, and operating conditions.
  • OSHA Requirements: OSHA mandates that operators must be competent to operate a forklift safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of training and evaluation. Since different workplaces have varying safety challenges and equipment, new training might be necessary to meet these standards at the new job.

Employer’s Responsibility

  • Record Keeping: Employers are responsible for ensuring their forklift operators are trained and evaluated according to OSHA standards. This responsibility includes maintaining up-to-date training records for each operator. When an operator moves to a new job, the new employer must ensure these records reflect the operator’s current competencies, which often necessitates new training or an evaluation of the operator’s skills in the new environment.
  • Liability: Employers are liable for the safety of their workplace. Relying on a certification from another employer does not absolve them of this responsibility. By conducting their own training or evaluation, employers can ensure compliance with OSHA regulations and reduce the risk of workplace accidents.

Best Practice for Operators

  • Documentation: While the certification card itself is not transferrable, keeping records of past training and evaluations can be helpful when switching jobs. This documentation can provide new employers with insight into the operator’s training history and competencies.
  • Expect Re-Evaluation: Operators should expect to undergo an evaluation when starting with a new employer, even if they have years of experience. This evaluation helps ensure that the operator can safely operate the specific types of forklifts used in the new workplace and is familiar with the new environment’s specific safety procedures.

To Finalize This

To wrap it up, OSHA doesn’t say you must have a forklift certification card in your pocket, but they do insist that anyone driving a forklift is trained and knows their stuff. This means your boss needs to make sure you’ve learned how to safely operate a forklift and keep a record of it.

While having a physical card isn’t a must according to OSHA’s rules, many workplaces make these cards to help show quickly that they’re following the rules and keeping everyone safe. So, it’s all about making sure you’re trained right, not necessarily about the card itself.


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