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Federal OSHA has no requirement that a forklift operator have a valid driver’s license. OSHA does require that every forklift operator be trained and certified to operate the powered industrial truck in the workplace, and that the operator’s performance be evaluated on the provisions of 1910.178(l)(3) every three years. The employer must have a record documenting that the driver has successfully completed the training. That is the only operating “license” required by OSHA.
Federal OSHA’s powered industrial truck standard does not specifically address vision/hearing requirements for operators. However, even though Federal OSHA doesn’t specifically address it in the regulation, there are obviously some potential concerns and safety issues and these need to be evaluated in light of the specific operations.
In fact, OSHA has issued a letter of interpretation stating that an employer must determine if full vision is mandatory for the operations and advises that appropriate medical personnel be consulted. (Reference: October 20, 1976 OSHA Letter of Interpretation, which was edited in 2000.)
And, OSHA has issued other interpretations addressing both visually and hearing impaired potential forklift operators. In general, OSHA states that it considers physical impairments on a case-by-case basis. If the employer can show that a physically impaired employee would be a danger to himself and other employees when operating equipment such as a forklift, the employer has the right to not allow that employee to become a forklift operator. If the employer knew this fact, but allowed the employee to operate the vehicle, OSHA could cite under the General Duty Clause, which guarantees all employees a safe and healthful workplace – free of known hazards.
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