A forklift operator uses a forklift to move products and other heavy items around in a manufacturing facility or distribution center. While men have traditionally dominated this job, women can find careers in warehouses that included forklift operation as of 2013.
The primary role of the forklift operator is to use small gas or large hydraulic forklifts to lift and load objects, move them to a new location and place them neatly. Operation of the forklift includes multiple steps. You typically move the forklift into position with the lift underneath the boxes, pallets or objects. Using lifting levers, you prepare the objects for transport. Then, you drive the machine to the new location, lower the lift and back the forklift out.
Some forklift operators work strictly indoors. Others work strictly outdoors. If you spend some time outside, harsh climates make for more hazardous work conditions. Inside a busy warehouse, the noise from equipment, the forklift itself and the hustle and bustle of employees working and moving about make for loud and sometimes raucous conditions. You need a relatively high stress tolerance to complete the work and not get bothered by the peripheral noise.
In high-volume warehouses, forklift operator may be a dedicated position. You simply spend most of the eight-hour day moving objects around. In smaller-scale operations, though, forklift operators actually engage in a number of other warehouse duties, including stocking or moving inventory by hand, moving equipment, pulling inventory and performing basic cleaning duties. In some cases, forklift operation is an extension of the role of a warehouse tech or specialist who completes all of these other activities.
Education and Training
You typically don't need any formal education to operate a forklift. Often, warehouse or factory employees start as basic technicians and then learn how to operate the forklift. Most companies have detailed training processes that you must successfully complete before they can certify you as a safe forklift operator. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict safety requirements for companies that use forklift operators.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.