Operator safety training: a global priority

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National Forklift Safety Day | June 11, 2024

National Forklift Safety Day creates an opportunity for our industry to collectively highlight the importance of safety and the need for operator training. Providing effective training for all employees operating powered industrial trucks is not only the law, it also makes good business sense. It improves employee performance, enhances profits, saves labor, improves a company’s competitive edge, and—most importantly—prevents injuries and saves lives.

In addition to supporting operator training, the industry has introduced innovative designs that have improved both safety and performance over the years. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, for example, manufacturers began to offer options for load backrests and protective operator cages, both of which later became standard. Operator-restraint systems were made standard in the early 1980s, and numerous additional safety advances, such as telematic technology that wirelessly controls operator access, forklift performance, and more, are in wide use today. In addition to advances in machine design, our industry continues to develop innovations in operator training, such as more visual elements for English-as-a-second-language operators and simulators and other virtual reality tools.

All of this demonstrates the industry’s unwavering commitment to forklift safety as a top priority. But as impressive as the technology advances have been, hands-on operator training remains the key to ensuring a safe work environment. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that operator training be tailored and specific: By the end of their training, operators must demonstrate the ability to safely operate the specific type of forklift they will be using in the specific workplace where they will use it.

Our approach to safety must be rigorous. But with today’s business environment constantly changing, the workforce becoming more diverse, and technology continually advancing, organizations need to be adaptable and resilient. This includes updating safety and training programs to reflect advances in technology and changes in operations, and keeping employees up to date on how those changes affect the safe use of our products. While safety training for new-hires has always been critical, the pace of change makes it increasingly important to ensure that even experienced operators remain properly versed in safe operation. 

The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) has supported and participated in the development of safety standards for powered industrial trucks since the association’s earliest days. We continue that work through the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). We have also collaborated with OSHA for 18 years on our very successful Compliance Officer Training Program.

This marks the 11th year ITA will host National Forklift Safety Day in Washington, D.C. We will again offer the program both in person and virtually, an innovation that continues to make important safety information available to an ever-growing audience. I am proud to say that what began in the U.S. more than a decade ago is now being adopted in other parts of the world. Our sister organizations have created National Forklift Safety Day programs in their respective countries and regions. During our most recent Alliance of Industrial Truck Organizations (A.I.T.O.) meeting, we heard reports from the Japan Industrial Vehicles Association (JIVA), Industrial Truck Institution of China Construction Machinery Association (CITA), and European Materials Handling Federation–Industrial Trucks Product Group (FEM IT) about their own Safety Day events. With support continuing to grow, we hope before long to see a Global Forklift Safety Day.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in person or online on National Forklift Safety Day, June 11, 2024.

Brian Feehan


Industrial Truck Association 

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