How To Get Started As A Forklift Driver
A fleet of forklifts manned by skilled, efficient drivers is an essential part of most modern industries, with warehouses increasingly designed around the unique characteristics of lift trucks in mind.
As a result, becoming a forklift driver gives you a set of highly desirable skills that can provide job opportunities across a wide range of industries, market sectors and regions, with a mix of flexibility, versatility and opportunities for career progression.
When it comes to forklift training, there are several ways to get started with forklift certification, but it can sometimes be unclear as to how much warehouse experience you need, whether you need a vehicle driving license and exactly which training courses are suitable.
Here is what you need to know to get started as a forklift operator.
What Qualifications Do You Need?
Exactly which qualifications you need to get a job as a forklift operator will vary depending on the specific company or agency you are applying for, and because of this the requirements of an employer and the legal requirements are often conflated.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a full UK driving license unless you are going to drive the forklift on public roads. However, many employers would prefer that you had one, and it can help make you more desirable.
There isn’t a forklift “license” per se. Instead, you need certification from an approved body that confirms that you can drive a forklift safely. You can apply for this independently or as part of a forklift operator apprentice.
Even so, when you get a new forklift operator job, you will receive specific training on the site you will be working in, the safety and inspection protocols you will be expected to follow and receive training to familiarise yourself with the new surroundings.
How Old Do You Need To Be To Drive A Forklift?
This is another question where the common practice is different from legal requirements, so it is necessary to cover both.
Legally, as long as you are over 16, the minimum age for leaving school, you can drive a forklift, except in ports due to the complexities of driving a forklift in a dockyard.
However, in practice, most employers will only train people who are at least 17, and in some cases will not hire anyone under 18 due to the changes in health and safety legislation when hiring staff under that age.
Are There Any Other Requirements?
You need to have a decent enough level of fitness to operate heavy machinery and the standards for forklifts are the same as those for the full UK driving licence.
This meant that you need to have reasonable vision and hearing, not have an epilepsy trigger caused by motion and would not pose a threat to themselves and others through any physical impairment.
This does not mean people with disabilities cannot operate forklifts, but medical advice should be sought first as noted in the HSE’s guidebook on lift trucks, and more dangerous environments may require more stringent tests and risk assessments.