Multi-Site Use by Operators of Powered Industrial Trucks

By Dennis Diamond-President, Diamond Training Services, LLC

Once again, I have to comment on the understanding concept of Forklift Certification requirements and OSHA compliance.   On occasion, I still receive calls and emails for training and certification from people who will be working at different job sites with differing hazards and physical features who mistakenly desire a “one size fits all” license…………as they call it.   They don’t seem to understand the regulation or don’t wish to understand it.  Perhaps they never thought to look it up and read it.  Under the OSH Act and the OSHA powered industrial truck regulation, company (italics added) is responsible for ensuring that persons who operate power pallet jacks at its worksite have been trained properly. The training and evaluation the regulation requires is truck-specific and site-specific. It is therefore consistent with the regulation for company (italics added) to require outside drivers who come into its workplace to have undergone company’s training course.   Some people and company reps call me because the employer is telling them to get a certification from somewhere in order to drive a forklift for that employer.  This means that none of the parties involved have read or attempted to read the actual regulation where it is all spelled out in 10th grade English. Powered Industrial Truck Regulation.

It is blatantly and irrefutably clear in 29 CFR 1910.178 that certification requires both proof of operational and safety knowledge and practical driving observation of the operator on the Powered Industrial Truck, in and at the environment where they will be operating the vehicle and on the specific class of vehicle they will be operating at that location.  This is the training rule or requirement in order for the certification to be considered legitimate.   Unless the operator who travels can prove that each and every location that they travel to is similar in every way to all others, then they would not be able to use such a “traveling” certification.  Since reality states that nearly no environment is exactly the same………..especially in construction…………then there is no legitimate situation for such a certification.

The most recent caller stated that his company’s insurance carrier was requiring this type of certification.  To this statement, I informed the caller that his insurance people were wrong, then.  If he had not misunderstood the insurance company, then what they were instructing him to do was patently wrong.  The caller claimed he was a site superintendent on various construction sites which made me wonder, in the first place, why he didn’t already know this about equipment safety training…………but that’s another problem. 

So, I told the caller that I could charge him for a training session but that it  wouldn’t be valid for any other location than the one where I trained him……………that is the regulation from OSHA.  I told him that I didn’t like to take money from people for services that didn’t benefit them at all and this would be the case if we proceeded.  He seemed agitated at my explanation so I am sure he’ll make enough phone calls to find an outfit that will take his money, give him a wallet card, and have him believe that it is transferrable to any situation and jobsite………..big mistake if something happens and an investigation ensues as a result.  It most likely will result in a “willful” violation (since he was informed of the requirements of the regulation) which carries one of the steepest monetary fines with it.

So, please remember that  forklift certifications must be site and equipment specific UNLESS  you can prove that multiple job sites, where you will be operating the equipment, will be exactly alike……..and I mean exactly in every way.  That is, because knowing how the equipment operates is only half the solution to being safe. You have to know how to use it safely IN the environment around you whether outside or inside.  You also have to demonstrate safe operation with the types of loads you would be handling and if they are different at different sites, this would also violate the standard for site and situation uniformity, also.

If your employment tasks require you or your supervisor employees that have tasks that require them to travel and use equipment that also requires site specific training conditions, then you need to have someone on the ground at the site that is qualified to conduct this training.  Each and every site where you travel requires a separate certification………….not my rules but those of OSHA and has been such for decades now.  If you cannot arrange to have a trainer on-site to certify your operators or yourself if you are the operator, then you should probably outsource the operator position to another entity of some sort or to another contractor at the site who has done this the correct way.

Like it or not, this is the regulation we have to use when complying with the OSHA Regulation.  You don’t get to debate these things after they become official regulations/administrative laws.  The time for debate has already passed when it becomes a written regulation.  You will not be understood or given a variance on this merely because “you didn’t know” or don’t agree with the regulation, either.  We seem to be living in a society where our laws and regulations are now being called “wrong” merely because affected persons don’t agree with them or are personally or institutionally inconvenienced by them.   Hopefully, mature and rational attitudes will prevail and safety/legal compliance will be sustained as an important part of the public trust as it always has been rather than a business nuisance by inconvenienced practitioners.