Online Forklift Refresher Training: How Often Should You Do This

Online Forklift Refresher Training

According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(4), the rules about how often you need to do online forklift refresher training are pretty straightforward. If you’re driving a forklift, you should take a refresher course every three years to stay sharp and safe.

OSHA Requirements for Forklift Retraining and Recertification

  • Initial Training and Evaluation: OSHA mandates that all forklift operators must undergo formal (e.g., lectures, videos, written materials) and practical (e.g., demonstrations and practical exercises) training, followed by an evaluation of their performance in the workplace (29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1)).
  • Content of Training: Training should cover truck-related topics (such as operation, steering, and visibility), workplace-related topics (including surface conditions and load manipulation), and the requirements of the OSHA standard itself.
  • Refresher Training and Evaluation: OSHA requires refresher training in specific situations, including:
    • The operator is involved in an accident or near-miss incident.
    • The operator is observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
    • The operator receives an evaluation that reveals unsafe operation.
    • The operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck.
    • A condition in the workplace changes in a way that affects safe operation of the truck (29 CFR 1910.178(l)(4)).
  • Frequency of Training: OSHA stipulates that an evaluation of each operator’s performance should be conducted at least once every three years (29 CFR 1910.178(l)(4)(iii)).

International Standards

While specific requirements can vary, many countries have regulations analogous to OSHA’s. For example, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Australia’s Safe Work Australia offer detailed guidelines for forklift training and recertification, emphasizing the importance of regular, documented training sessions and competency assessments.

Recommendations from Industry Bodies and Safety Organizations

  • Regular Refresher Training: Beyond compliance with legal requirements, many safety organizations recommend more frequent refresher training sessions to address specific risks, technological updates, or changes within the workplace.
  • Tailored Training Programs: Industry bodies often advise that training programs be customized to the specific needs of the workplace, including the types of forklifts used and the particular environment in which they operate.
  • Continuous Learning: Emphasizing a culture of continuous learning and improvement can help ensure that operators’ skills and knowledge remain up-to-date. This includes staying abreast of technological advancements in forklift design and safety features.
  • Comprehensive Safety Culture: Embedding forklift training within a broader safety culture that includes regular safety meetings, near-miss reporting, and employee involvement in safety decisions can enhance overall workplace safety.

Read related article: Is Online Forklift Certification Legit? (Let OSHA Answers This)

Your Company’s Safety Policy Prevails

The three-year interval for forklift refresher training is a minimum requirement set by OSHA. However, if your company’s safety policy mandates more frequent training, then you must follow your company’s guidelines. This approach underscores the importance of tailoring safety protocols to specific workplace needs and risks, which can vary greatly from one operation to another.

Here are a few points to consider regarding company safety policies and training frequencies:

Tailored Safety Measures

  • Companies may identify unique operational risks or have a history of safety incidents that warrant more frequent training to mitigate these risks effectively.
  • Work environments that are dynamic, with frequent changes in layout, operations, or the introduction of new equipment, may require more agile and responsive training schedules.

Proactive Safety Culture

  • Organizations with a strong commitment to safety often adopt policies that exceed minimum legal requirements. This proactive approach can lead to a reduction in accidents and injuries, higher employee morale, and increased productivity.
  • Regular training, beyond the OSHA minimum, can reinforce safety practices and keep safety at the forefront of employees’ minds.

Compliance Plus

  • While adhering to OSHA standards is essential for legal compliance, aiming for a higher standard demonstrates a commitment to excellence and continuous improvement in safety management.
  • This “compliance plus” approach can also be beneficial in the event of an audit or inspection, showing that the company goes above and beyond the minimum requirements.

Implementation Considerations

  • When implementing more frequent training, it’s important to consider the format (online, in-person, hands-on), the content (customized to address specific risks or scenarios), and the impact on operations.
  • Engaging employees in the development and review of safety policies, including training frequency, can help ensure buy-in and compliance.

While the OSHA three-year minimum serves as a baseline for forklift refresher training, companies are encouraged to assess their specific needs and risks, potentially adopting more stringent training frequencies as part of their safety policies. This tailored approach can enhance safety outcomes and contribute to a stronger safety culture within the organization.

Factors Influencing Refresher Training Frequency

The frequency of refresher training for forklift operators is not a one-size-fits-all matter; it’s influenced by a range of factors that can vary significantly from one workplace to another. Understanding these factors is crucial for employers and safety managers to ensure their teams remain skilled, compliant, and safe. Here’s a closer look at the primary factors influencing the need for regular refresher training:

Skill Decay: The Erosion of Proficiency Over Time

  • Nature of Skill Decay: Skills, especially those not regularly practiced, can diminish over time. This phenomenon, known as skill decay, affects the operator’s ability to operate the forklift safely and efficiently.
  • Combatting Skill Decay: Regular refresher training helps combat skill decay by reinforcing the operator’s knowledge and practical abilities, ensuring that safety and operational procedures remain second nature.

Technological Advancements: Keeping Up with Innovation

  • Evolving Forklift Technology: As forklift design and functionality advance, operators must stay informed about new features, controls, and safety systems to operate these machines effectively.
  • Training for Technological Proficiency: Refresher training provides an opportunity to update operators on the latest forklift technologies and how to use them safely and efficiently, ensuring they can adapt to new equipment seamlessly.

Changes in Regulations: Staying Compliant

  • Regulatory Updates: The legal landscape surrounding workplace safety and forklift operation is subject to change. New regulations may impose additional requirements on training, operation, and maintenance.
  • Ensuring Compliance: Regular refresher courses help ensure that all operators are up-to-date with the latest regulatory requirements, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties.

Workplace Incidents: Learning from Experience

  • Accidents and Near-Misses: Incidents in the workplace, including accidents and near-misses, often highlight specific areas where additional training is needed to prevent future occurrences.
  • Proactive Response to Incidents: Implementing refresher training following such incidents can address and rectify the identified skill gaps or procedural shortcomings, enhancing overall safety.

Changes in Workplace Layout or Operations: Adapting to New Environments

  • Operational Changes: Adjustments in the workplace layout or operational processes can significantly impact forklift operation, necessitating updated training to accommodate these changes.
  • Training for Adaptation: Refresher training in response to changes in the workplace ensures that operators can safely and efficiently navigate new layouts and adhere to updated operational procedures.

The frequency of forklift refresher training should be tailored to address these dynamic factors. By closely monitoring skill decay, technological advancements, regulatory changes, workplace incidents, and operational adjustments, employers can schedule refresher training sessions that ensure their forklift operators remain skilled, compliant, and safe in their roles. This proactive approach not only enhances workplace safety but also contributes to operational efficiency and regulatory compliance.

Read related article: Does OSHA Recognize Online Forklift Training?

Recommended Frequency for Various Scenarios

The frequency of such training should be carefully considered, taking into account various factors that may necessitate more frequent sessions. Below are general guidelines and considerations for different scenarios that affect the recommended frequency of forklift refresher training.

General Guidelines on Frequency

  • OSHA Recommendations: While specific frequencies can vary by region and governing body, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) suggests forklift operators receive refresher training at least once every three years. However, this is a minimum standard, and more frequent training may be beneficial or necessary depending on circumstances.
  • Industry Best Practices: Many safety experts recommend annual refresher training as a best practice to ensure skills and knowledge remain current.

Scenarios Requiring More Frequent Training

Introduction of New Equipment

  • Frequency Adjustment: Whenever new forklift models or technology are introduced, provide immediate refresher training to ensure operators can safely and efficiently use the new equipment.
  • Customized Sessions: Tailor these sessions to focus specifically on the differences and new features of the equipment.

High Incidence of Workplace Accidents

  • Proactive Training Schedule: In environments where accidents or near-misses are more frequent, consider semi-annual refresher training to address and mitigate these risks.
  • Focused Curriculum: Concentrate on the common factors contributing to these incidents, reinforcing safety protocols and situational awareness.

Regulatory Updates

  • Immediate Compliance: Following significant regulatory changes affecting forklift operation or safety standards, schedule refresher training as soon as possible to ensure compliance.
  • Incorporate Changes: Update training materials to reflect new regulations, emphasizing these changes during sessions.

Changes in Workplace Layout or Operations

  • Training Upon Change: Implement refresher training sessions shortly after significant changes to the workplace layout or operational procedures are made.
  • Custom Training Content: Focus on navigating the new layout and adapting to operational changes safely.

Tips for Employers on Assessing the Need for Refresher Training

Regular Skills Assessments

  • Conduct Regular Evaluations: Implement a system of regular skills assessments to identify any decay in operational competency or safety procedures among forklift operators.
  • Act on Findings: Use assessment results to tailor refresher training frequency and content to the specific needs of your workforce.

Monitor Industry Trends and Technological Advancements

  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of any advancements in forklift technology and best practices within the industry.
  • Adapt Training Accordingly: Ensure refresher training incorporates the latest in technology and operational strategies.

Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement

  • Encourage Feedback: Foster an environment where employees can openly discuss training needs and safety concerns.
  • Responsive Training Programs: Develop a flexible training program that can be quickly adapted to meet emerging needs or address identified gaps.

Utilize Incident Reports and Near-Miss Analyses

  • Learn from Incidents: Carefully analyze incident reports and near-misses to identify trends or common factors.
  • Targeted Training Response: Use this analysis to inform refresher training topics, focusing on preventing recurrence of similar incidents.

By considering these guidelines and adapting training frequency to fit specific scenarios and needs, employers can ensure their forklift operators remain competent, compliant, and safe. Regular, targeted refresher training is key to maintaining a high standard of operational efficiency and workplace safety.

3 Ways to Take the Refresher Course

Forklift operator refresher training can be taken in several ways, catering to different learning styles, schedules, and operational needs. Here are some of the most common and effective methods:

1. Online Courses

  • Flexibility: Allows operators to complete training at their own pace and on their own schedule, ideal for busy work environments.
  • Accessibility: Can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, making it convenient for operators in remote locations.
  • Consistency: Provides standardized training content, ensuring all operators receive the same information.

2. In-Person Classroom Training

  • Interactive: Facilitates real-time interaction with instructors, allowing for immediate feedback and clarification of doubts.
  • Engagement: Can be more engaging for some learners who benefit from a structured learning environment and peer interaction.
  • Comprehensive: Often includes both theoretical and practical components, providing a well-rounded learning experience.

3. On-the-Job or On-site Training

  • Practical Experience: Offers hands-on learning in the actual work environment, allowing operators to apply concepts in real-world scenarios.
  • Customized: Can be tailored to address specific operational needs, equipment, and workplace layouts.
  • Immediate Feedback: Instructors or experienced operators can provide instant feedback and correction, enhancing the learning process.

When choosing the method for refresher training, consider factors like the operators’ learning preferences, the specific skills or knowledge they need to update, and the logistical aspects of scheduling and conducting the training. A combination of these methods, tailored to your organization’s and operators’ needs, can provide the most effective training outcome.

The Online Is the Most Common Delivery The Refresher Course

Forklift operators can take the refresher online, which is a convenient and flexible option for many operators and employers. Online training offers several advantages, including:

  1. Easy and Flexible
    • Online training lets you learn from anywhere, like your home or workplace. You don’t need to travel to a training center.
    • You can choose when to do the training. Whether it’s early in the morning, during a break at work, or in the evening, it fits your schedule. This is really handy for people who are busy or have different work hours.
    • You can learn at your own pace. If something is hard to understand, you can take more time on it. Or, if you know something well, you can move faster. This personal pace makes learning more effective.
  2. Always Up-to-Date
    • Online courses are often updated with the latest safety rules and driving tips. This means you’re learning the most current information, which is super important for safety.
    • They can quickly include changes in laws or industry standards. So, you’re not learning outdated stuff. You’re always on top of what’s new and required.
    • This up-to-date knowledge makes sure you’re following the rules and doing things safely. It helps to avoid accidents and mistakes, keeping everyone at work safe.
  3. Saves Money
    • Online courses usually cost less than in-person training. You’re paying for the course only, not for the space or travel costs of the instructor.
    • You save money on travel. You don’t need to go to a training center, so no spending on gas, bus tickets, or taking time off work.
    • It also saves time, and time is money. You don’t waste hours going to and from a training place. This means you can spend more time working or doing things you enjoy.

These benefits make online training a smart choice for both individuals and businesses. It’s convenient, keeps you current, and is friendly on the budget.

Read related article: How Long Does It Take To Get Good On A Forklift?

To Make a Conclusion

In wrapping up, understanding how often to undergo online forklift refresher training is crucial for maintaining a safe and efficient workplace. While OSHA sets the minimum standard every three years, your specific workplace safety policies may require more frequent training.

The key takeaway is that staying updated with refresher training is not just about meeting legal requirements; it’s about ensuring the safety of everyone involved and maximizing operational efficiency. Online training offers a flexible and accessible way to keep skills sharp and knowledge up to date.

Whether it’s every three years, or more often as dictated by your company’s safety policy, making this retraining a regular part of your professional development is essential for any forklift operator. After all, in the world of forklift operation, staying educated means staying safe.


  • Mike Pattenson

    Mike Pattenson is a seasoned forklift trainer with over 15 years of experience in the field. Mike holds several certifications in forklift operation, safety training, and workplace hazard management. He is a certified OSHA outreach trainer, which enables him to provide specialized training on occupational safety and health standards. Additionally, he has completed advanced courses in instructional techniques and adult education.

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