Can You Get A Forklift License At 16? (Laws By Country)

Can You Get A Forklift License At 16

Can a 16-year-old legally obtain a forklift license? This is a common question where always hear from our students and we will try to enlighten you regarding this matter.

In some regions, exceptions allow younger individuals, such as 16-year-olds, to obtain a forklift license. These exceptions usually come with specific conditions like restricted operation hours or limited types of forklifts they can operate. Always check the local laws to see if and how a 16-year-old can be licensed to drive a forklift.

Most places require a forklift operator to be at least 18 years old. This age requirement is based on the assumption that by 18, individuals are more capable of handling the responsibilities and potential risks associated with operating heavy machinery.

The exact requirements for training and age can vary. Some countries or states have stricter regulations, requiring more extensive training or a higher minimum age. Others might be more lenient. This is often because different places have different views on workplace safety and youth employment.

Before you can drive a forklift, you must undergo specific training. This training covers:

  • How to operate the forklift, including starting, moving, lifting, and placing loads.
  • Safety practices such as checking the forklift before use, wearing safety gear, and understanding signs and signals used in work areas.

Places Where Minors Can Get Licensed

Countries or regions allowing licensing at 16

While most places typically require forklift operators to be at least 18, there are exceptions where minors, specifically those who are 16, can legally obtain a forklift license. Examples include:

United States

In the U.S., the federal law concerning minors operating forklifts is primarily governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and regulations enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. Under these laws, generally, individuals must be at least 18 years old to operate forklifts in non-agricultural settings.

However, there are exceptions for agricultural operations where 16- and 17-year-olds can engage in non-hazardous jobs, which can include operating certain types of forklifts under specific conditions. Detailed guidance can be found in the regulations provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.


In Australia, each state and territory has its own regulations concerning the operation of forklifts, overseen by bodies such as WorkSafe in Victoria or SafeWork in New South Wales. The general requirement across Australia is that operators must hold a High Risk Work Licence to operate a forklift, which can typically only be obtained at 18.

However, in certain training environments and under strict supervision, younger individuals may begin learning to operate forklifts. Specific conditions and allowances are detailed in the guidelines provided by the respective state or territory’s workplace health and safety authority.

United Kingdom

Can a 16 year old drive a forklift UK? In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidelines for the operation of forklift trucks. While the typical minimum age for obtaining a forklift license is 18, under specific circumstances, individuals aged 16 and above can begin training on forklifts.

This is usually restricted to environments that do not pose standard industrial risks, such as private properties or dedicated training facilities. Detailed conditions and guidelines can be found in the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice and guidance for the provision and use of work equipment regulations.


In Canada, forklift operation is regulated primarily at the provincial level, with each province setting its own rules for training, licensing, and age requirements. Here are some details for key provinces:

1. Ontario
  • Regulation: Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development enforces the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which requires that all forklift operators be competent persons. The Act does not specify an age, but generally, employers follow the guideline that operators should be at least 18.
  • Source: Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation 851 for Industrial Establishments.
2. British Columbia
  • Regulation: WorkSafeBC outlines that operators must receive adequate instruction in the safe use of the equipment, as well as any necessary training. Age restrictions are not specified in the regulation itself, but the practice is typically to limit forklift operation to those over 18.
  • Source: WorkSafeBC Regulations, Part 16 – Mobile Equipment.
3. Alberta
  • Regulation: Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Code specifies that equipment must only be operated by competent operators. As in other provinces, while there is no explicit age limit stated, the norm is that operators are at least 18 years of age.
  • Source: Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Code 2009.
4. Quebec
  • Regulation: According to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), operators must be trained and competent. Quebec tends to have strict enforcement of operator competency, implicitly suggesting operators are adults, though no specific age is mentioned in the regulation.
  • Source: Regulation respecting occupational health and safety.
5. Nova Scotia
  • Regulation: Under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act, operators must be competent and trained. The practice of restricting operation to those 18 and older is commonly observed, aligning with general workplace safety standards.
  • Source: Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act, General Regulations.

In each of these countries, the regulations aim to balance the training opportunities for young individuals with the need to maintain safety in the workplace. Always check the latest local regulations or consult legal resources to get the most current information.

Special conditions or restrictions for minors

Supervised operation To ensure safety, minors are often required to operate forklifts under the direct supervision of an adult who has the appropriate experience and qualifications. This supervision is intended to provide immediate guidance and intervention if necessary, reducing the risk of accidents.

Restricted operation areas Minors may be restricted from operating in areas that are considered high-risk. These include places like public roads, active warehouses, or areas where there is a lot of activity and movement of other heavy machinery. Such restrictions are designed to protect the young operator and other workers.

Limited hours There may be limitations on the working hours for minors. This could include restrictions on working during school hours, late at night, or for extended periods without breaks. These rules help ensure that work does not interfere with their education and health.

Specific types of forklifts Minors may only be allowed to operate lighter or less complex forklifts. These machines typically have fewer operational hazards and require less physical strength to control effectively. The idea is to ease them into the responsibilities of operating more complex machinery as they gain experience and maturity.

How to Get a Forklift License at 16

If you’re 16 and interested in getting a forklift license, here are the steps you need to follow. This guide includes where to find courses and what kind of training you’ll need.

1. Check Local Laws

  • What to do: Find out if you can legally get a forklift license at 16 in your area. You might need to look online or call your local government office.
  • How long it takes: Usually, you can find this information in a day.

2. Find a Training Program

  • What to do: Look for a place that offers forklift training for 16-year-olds. These could be trade schools, community colleges, or private training centers.
  • How long it takes: Finding the right program might take a few days. You’ll need to make sure they accept 16-year-olds and that the program is recognized by safety authorities.

3. Enroll in the Course

  • What to do: Once you find a suitable program, sign up for it. There might be a fee, so be prepared for that.
  • How long it takes: Signing up should be quick, but the course itself usually lasts from one to two weeks.

4. Attend Training Classes

  • What to do: Go to both classroom lessons and hands-on practice sessions. You’ll learn how to safely operate a forklift, the different parts of the machine, and important safety rules.
  • How long it takes: Training usually involves around 30 to 40 hours total, spread over a few days to a couple of weeks.

5. Pass the Tests

  • What to do: After your training, you’ll need to pass both a written test and a practical driving test to show you can safely operate a forklift.
  • How long it takes: Each test might take a few hours on the same day or on separate days.

6. Get Your License

  • What to do: If you pass the tests, you can apply for your forklift license. Your training center will usually help you with this process.
  • How long it takes: Getting your license might take a few weeks, depending on how quickly your paperwork is processed.

Where to Find Courses

You can find forklift training courses at:

  • Trade Schools and Vocational Colleges: These schools often offer specialized training programs.
  • Private Training Centers: These centers provide detailed training and are focused solely on certifications like forklift operation.
  • Online Directories and Local Government Websites: These resources can help you locate nearby accredited training providers.

Make sure the training center is approved by relevant safety authorities to ensure your license will be valid for work.

Is the Forklift Training Different for a 16-Year-Old?

Yes, forklift training for a 16-year-old can be different from that provided to adults, mainly due to legal restrictions and safety concerns. Here are some key differences:

1. Legal Restrictions

  • Age-Specific Regulations: In many places, there are specific legal guidelines about what type of forklift a minor can operate and under what conditions they can do so. For instance, some laws might restrict minors to lighter, less complex forklifts or limit the environments in which they can operate (e.g., avoiding industrial operations).

2. Training Content

  • Emphasis on Safety: Training for minors often places a greater emphasis on safety procedures and risk awareness. This is to ensure young operators are particularly cautious and fully aware of the potential hazards.
  • Adjusted Complexity: The technical complexity of the training might be adjusted to be suitable for younger learners, ensuring that they can fully grasp the operational techniques and safety protocols.

3. Supervision Requirements

  • Increased Supervision: Minors may be required to perform all forklift operations under close supervision, even after they have received their certification. This is to ensure they can safely apply their training in real-world scenarios.

4. Training Environment

  • Controlled Settings: Often, training for minors will take place in more controlled environments to minimize risks. This could include more simulated operations and restricted access to active work zones.

5. Certification Process

  • Gradual Certification: In some jurisdictions, the certification process for minors might be staged, with full certification only being granted after reaching the age of 18, despite initial training and partial qualification at 16.

These differences are designed to accommodate the developmental and legal considerations for younger operators, ensuring both their safety and the safety of others in the work environment. Always check local regulations to understand the specific training and certification requirements for minors in your area.

If the Student Can Get a Forklift License, He May Not Be Able To Work in Dangerous Workplaces

Even if a young student, such as a 16-year-old, manages to obtain a forklift license, there are typically strict regulations about where and how they can work. The rules are designed to protect young workers from high-risk environments.

Here’s a more detailed look at what that means:

  1. Restricted Work Zones: Many places will not allow young forklift operators to work in areas considered hazardous. This could include locations with high traffic, toxic substances, extreme temperatures, or significant heights.
  2. Limited Work Types: The types of tasks a young forklift operator can perform might also be limited. For example, they may be restricted from performing tasks that require extensive physical strength or exposure to potentially dangerous machinery beyond the forklift.
  3. Supervised Work Settings: Often, when minors are allowed to operate forklifts, they must do so under close supervision of experienced adults. This supervision is meant to ensure safety and provide guidance as they navigate the responsibilities of operating such equipment.
  4. Safety First: The emphasis on safety extends to training as well. Young operators are usually required to undergo thorough safety training and possibly more frequent refreshers than adult operators to reinforce safe practices.

These precautions help ensure that while young workers can gain valuable experience, they do so in a manner that prioritizes their well-being and safety. It’s always important for employers and young workers alike to be fully aware of and compliant with all applicable labor laws and safety regulations.

The Student May Also Have a Hard Time Getting a Forklift Operator Job

Getting a forklift operator job might be tough for a young student, even if they have a license. Employers often prefer hiring older workers because they have more experience and maturity, which is important when handling heavy machinery like a forklift. Also, some workplace insurance policies don’t cover younger workers operating such equipment, which can make employers wary of hiring them.

Another issue is that laws and rules might limit where young operators can work, reducing job opportunities. The job market for forklift operators can be competitive, and adults often have the edge due to their experience. Plus, students usually have limited availability because of school, which doesn’t always fit the full-time hours that jobs might require.

Even with a license, a young student may need to take extra steps, like getting more certifications or experience through internships, to convince employers that they are right for the job. This can help them stand out despite being younger than many other candidates.

To Make a Conclusion

Whether a 16-year-old can get a forklift license depends a lot on where they live. In many places, the rules say you have to be older, usually 18, because operating a forklift can be dangerous and requires mature handling. Some areas might let younger people start learning with certain limits. If you or someone you know is 16 and interested in driving a forklift, it’s very important to check the local laws and rules to make sure everything is done safely and legally.

Always remember, safety is the biggest priority when it comes to operating heavy machinery like forklifts. Training programs are crucial because they teach how to handle the forklift safely and avoid accidents. For anyone starting young, these programs can also provide a good foundation for a future career in industries where forklifts are used. So, checking and following the specific rules in your area not only helps you stay legal but also keeps you and others around you safe.


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