Forklift skills you need to have so you don’t fork things up

If you can remember being fascinated with the forklift, watching it as a child with fascination, then a job in a warehouse is a great idea. Here are a few things to know to help you get started.

Forklifts and load moving devices come in a range of sizes such as:

  • Hand pallet trucks that are manually pumped to move pallets
  • Powered pallet trucks that pick a load and then move forward or backward
  • Stock pickers that are used to pick stock off high shelves
  • Counter-balance trucks have a heavyweight at the back to keep them balanced
  • Side loaders, which as the name suggests, helps place long loads

There are several other versions as well, but these above are the most common.

What do forklift drivers do?

Put simply, forklift drivers work with their vehicles to pick up and move items that cannot be moved by a person. Most often, goods are placed on a pallet made of wood and these are lifted. There are a few companies that also use crates. Based on the kind of goods the forklift is carrying, there may be additions to the machine, such as a safety cage or lifting drums, which help with certain kinds of goods.

Often you will find forklift driver jobs are in warehouses as well as in yards. Jobs can also be found at ports, on farms as well as in armed forces and also at locations that require heavy storage, such as a boat storage. Some of the work may be outdoors and things can get noisy as well. Most jobs are based in predominantly commercial areas. Work can happen on weekends and at nights – since movement of goods is often during off hours.

What are the best forklift skills to have?

For starters, forklift drivers must have good spatial awareness. This is to manage the vehicle they are moving and the spaces that they are manoeuvring in. Being able to judge distances as well as the weights they carry is essential.

As a driver, you will have to assess the load you are carrying and understand the path that you will be charting. This is to avoid any hazards or possible obstacles along the way. Being able to pay attention to detail is also important – especially when you are stacking goods or bringing them down to move to another place. You will also have to be conscious of safety – miscalculating space, weights and distances can lead to some serious injuries. This is where good eyesight and hearing play an integral role. Being physically fit is also important because the job involves being seated for a long time and your body should be able to handle it.

There are also times that you may be working under pressure to meet deadlines or in a busy space. Being able to follow instructions and not let anything distract you is also important. It is also the responsibility of the forklift driver to look after the vehicle they is using and perform basic maintenance on it. There is also a certain amount of paperwork involved with the job and so language skills are essential.

What training should a forklift driver have?

You will have to be over 18 years of age to be able to apply for a license. There are several registered forklift training organisations from where you can secure some fundamental training as well. This training will teach you the basics of operating various kinds of forklifts and give you the hands-on training that you will need. Other than these training courses, it is a good idea to add to your skill sets if you have some qualifications in warehouse and logistical operations. Having a license to drive heavy vehicles is an added strong point as well. You can find out more about forklift osh certificate information here.

Tips to ensure safe forklift operation

Be a qualified operator: While this should go without saying, it is important to reiterate this. It is important from a safety perspective that forklifts be operated only by those individuals who have been trained to do so and have the necessary licenses in place.

Wear the right clothing: This pertains to safety. A forklift operator must always be in appropriate safety gear while on the job. This includes having a hard hat, safety shoes and high visibility jackets. Wearing comfortably fitted clothes will prevent any hazards of it getting caught in machinery.

Make a cursory check before you begin: Experienced forklift operators will tell you that it is important to give your vehicle and all the controls a once over before you begin. Things to look out for are issues with the brakes, the steering, controls, warning devices as well as the mast and tyres. Any damage must be immediately checked and fixed. It is also important not to operate the forklift with greasy hands as this can cause slips.

Starting and moving the forklift: Always ensure that the control are in reach, the mirrors in the right position. Make sure to assess the load to be carried, the distance and path it should be carried across before making a move. Be sure to follow all worksite rules and guidelines. Make sure that movement is only on designated pathways. Always move at a safe, designated speed. Make the horn a friend and use it if you feel the need, to alert people or other forklift operators of your presence. Always make sure to check loads at pick-up and drop points for stability during loading and unloading.

With the right kind of training, forklift skills can be acquired and it is a secure job. Forklift certifications are helpful for a range of roles that aren’t specialised too, whether you’re an engineer needing to move things from storage onto a trailer for a job, or a carpet layer needing to load your next flooring job.

If you have any questions, please ask below!