GWH Blog

Forklift Certification Basics for Wineries

Disclaimer: This blog post is not a comprehensive guide on forklift certification. Please refer to the California Occupational Safety Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) forklift regulations for more information.

I f you are new to a winery, wine cellar, or warehouse, you may be uncertain how to obtain your certification to operate a forklift. The team at Gravity Wine House wanted to share our anecdotal knowledge about getting certified in forklift operation.

Wineries use forklifts to move materials around inside and outside of the winery. If you aspire to drive a forklift, you should know that the law requires training, evaluation, and certification before operation of a forklift in the workplace. Why? The goal of training and certification is to keep workers safe and reduce injuries caused by unsafe lift truck handling. We follow all state and federal regulations for the operation of forklifts specified by Cal/OSHA, along with best safety practices, and want to share some of them with you.

General Forklift Certification Tips

While OSHA does not provide forklift training, they require employers to provide certification opportunities for their employees, either in-house or at a nearby facility. On-site employer certification streamlines the certification and training process, as workers learn safe forklift operation practices within their specific work environment. Regardless of certification location, all workers must receive hands-on training at the employer’s warehouse prior to forklift operation on-site.

The certificate obtained following certification shows the date of training and evaluation, and the names of the operator, trainer, and evaluator. Employers must maintain an up-to-date record of employee certifications for compliance purposes, and active drivers must be re-trained at their worksite before the three-year expiration.

Although there are seven types of forklift classifications, a worker only needs certification and training for the forklift classifications relevant to their workplace. As an employer, we ensure that our forklift drivers are well versed in the safe operating procedures for the forklift class that we use at Gravity Wine House: Class 1, Electric Motor Rider Trucks.

Training in specialized equipment is necessary for employees at wineries that use such attachments in conjunction with the forklift to ensure safe forklift operation. Specialized equipment includes specific fork lengths to accommodate winery barrel racks or additional hydraulic valves. While standard forklifts typically have three hydraulic valves, winery forklifts may have four valves to allow for a dedicated bin rotator valve. While the details of training requirements can be overwhelming, questions about best forklift practices are encouraged throughout the training process.

Forklift Controls

Forklifts are indispensable machines for winery operations.

New Operator Forklift Training

If your goal is to be certified, then you will need to follow specific steps. First and foremost, you need to be 18 years old to obtain a workplace forklift certification. Classroom instruction and evaluation by a qualified trainer are required for certification. Instruction includes pertinent information about all aspects of the forklift and its safe operation, and can be completed online or in-person. As a future forklift operator, you will learn about personal protective equipment (PPE), how to identify site hazards in

Forklift in winery

Forklifts can be used for a variety of applications in the winery. Here a forklift operator rotates a bin of grapes into a stainless steel fermentation tank.

the workplace, and about the parts of the forklift. Classroom sessions conclude with lessons on textbook safety operations and standard operating procedures (SOP). While some forklift certification programs may require a written test, this is not a requirement to be certified.

During the training process, it’s a good idea to ask about the PPE required in your winery or workplace, as regulations do not specify the PPE required for forklift operation. During the hands-on driving instruction, you may be asked to wear PPE, such as steel cap boots, a hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, or other items. When driving a forklift, seatbelt use is always required.

As a forklift operator, you’ll learn how to use three-point contact to enter the forklift and how to evaluate the work site for potential hazards. You will need to pass the drive test, prove that you can correctly use the forklift, and demonstrate the proper use of forklift SOPs to receive your forklift certification and wallet card.



Forklift Re-Certification

Congratulations – you’re certified! Although you are a certified forklift operator, your training is not over. Each forklift operator must be re-evaluated every three years; this re-certification training can be performed by your employer. It’s good practice to monitor your certification status to be proactive about keeping your certification up to date before it expires. Additionally, if you as an operator are involved in a near or actual accident, operate the forklift in an unsafe manner, are assigned to drive a different type of forklift, or if work conditions change, you must complete a refresher course. In any of these circumstances, employers must retrain their employee, document the retraining, and retain the document in their company files.

Forklift Used to Move Barrels at the Facility

A certified Gravity Wine House employee uses a forklift to move wine barrels around the facility.

Become a Qualified Trainer

Are you already an experienced forklift operator? Maybe you would be interested in becoming a trainer! When qualified, any employer or employee can be a forklift trainer. To qualify, you must have the knowledge and experience to effectively conduct forklift training and evaluate the competence of other forklift operators. While train-the-trainer certification programs exist, they are not required to be certified as a forklift trainer.

Regardless of your current forklift certification status, thorough training is an integral component of assuring workplace safety for yourself and others in workspaces where forklifts are present. Our team here at Gravity Wine House supports the maintenance and operation of safe workplaces, so if you have any questions about forklift certification, please feel free to give us a call.

Nissan Forklift at the Facility

A forklift operator passes through a row of neatly stacked barrels.