OSHA and Mass DPS Requirements for Forklift Training and Licensing


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Many of our clients have asked us for clarification on the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS) and OSHA’s licensing requirements for forklift (powered industrial trucks) training. Below you will find a series of questions and answers addressing all of your forklift concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact us or call at 877-399-1698 if you need further clarification. You can also find forklift training courses here.


FACT: OSHA requires training of all employees who operate powered industrial trucks “forklifts”.

Q: Who must comply with this OSHA standard and requirement?

A: Operators of powered industrial trucks in the general industry, construction, and maritime industries, must be trained. OSHA estimates this covers more than 1.5 million operators.

Q: Which OSHA standards apply to forklifts?

A: General industry standard: 1910.178(l) shipyards:1915.120(l) construction:1926.602(d)

Q: When must OSHA forklift training be provided?

A: Employees must be trained and evaluated before being assigned to operate a powered industrial truck.

Q: What must the OSHA forklift training include?

A: A training program must consist of these three parts:

1. Formal instruction can be given using lectures, discussions, interactive computer learning, videos, or written material. Formal instruction does not have to occur in an actual classroom.

It can be as simple as the trainer talking to the trainee and explaining training material, such as the concept of vehicle stability, what causes instability, and how to avoid it.

2. Practical, hands-on training covers demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee.

3. An evaluation of the operator’s ability to handle the truck safely in the workplace must be conducted by the trainer. Specific training topics to be covered are listed in the standards. All of the topics must be covered, unless the employer can show that certain topics are not needed.

For example, an employee assigned to operate an order picker must be trained in the location and function of the controls; the location and operation of the engine or motor; steering and maneuvering; visibility; inspection and maintenance; other general operating functions of the vehicle; and workplace-related topics.

That employee must also be taught to use fall protection when the truck platform is raised, and never to drive the truck when the platform is raised, except as specified in the operator’s manual.

In general, the training program must be based on the trainee’s prior knowledge and skill, types of powered industrial trucks used in the workplace, hazards in the workplace, and the operator’s demonstrated ability to handle a powered industrial truck safely.

OSHA does not specify the time that must be spent on training, or the exact methods that must be used.

Q: Who can conduct the OSHA forklift training?

A: The standard does not stipulate that a designated person conduct the training and evaluation of each operator. It does, though, spell out the knowledge, skills, or experience any trainer or evaluator must possess. An employer might have the necessary prerequisites to qualify as a trainer and evaluator, or the job can be assigned to one or more employees or an outside resource having those prerequisites.

A.    Because of the simple access and low cost, many employers are now choosing online train-the-trainer certification and training.  Online training provides all the benefits of on-site training as well as the opportunity for employees to be trained to the topics required by OSHA to ensure compliance. United Alliance Services provides great online training options: Forklift Safety for the Competent Person (Price $59.00)

A:   Many companies find that hiring an consultant like United Alliance Services to do on-site or off-site training to be the most inexpensive option and least disruptive to operations. In addition, owners or manager will be released of the burden of building an OSHA compliant training program.

Q: Do employers have to certify that the OSHA forklift training and evaluation has been done? How often must OSHA training be conducted?

A: Each operator’s performance must be evaluated every three (3) years. Typically, the person doing the evaluation first observes the operator to determine if he or she is performing safely, and then asks questions to ensure that the operator has the knowledge or experience needed.

Refresher training is required whenever one of the following occurs:

the operator is involved in an accident or near-miss incident;
the operator has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner;
the operator has been determined, during an evaluation, to need more training;
there are changes in the workplace that could affect safe operation (such as a different type of paving, reconfigured storage racks, or new layouts with narrower aisles or restricted visibility); or
the operator is assigned to a different type of truck.

Q: What about operators who have received prior OSHA forklift training?

A: Any operator (whether currently on the payroll or a new hire) does not have to be trained in topics that he or she has previously received training in, provided that the operator’s performance has been evaluated as competent.

The adequacy of prior training can take into account the type of equipment operated, how much experience the operator has had on that equipment, how recently the experience was gained, and where the operator has worked.

OSHA believes new operators will always need some training on site-specific safety factors. Depending on their competency, others may be able to forego some or all of the initial training.

For more details on the powered industrial truck operating training standard, access OSHA’s Web site at www.osha.gov.  Technical questions can be directed to OSHA’s Directorate of Safety Standards Programs (202) 693-2082.

Key Reasons for Renewing Your Forklift License

It has been 3 years since your last renewal
You have switched employers or jobs
Your employer has new or different machinery
You have had an accident with a forklift or powered industrial truck
You have been observed operating machinery incorrectly


The licensing of hoisting machinery operators is covered under Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 146, Section 53. The regulation, 520 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 6.00 associated with this law, requires all operators of hoisting machinery, including forklifts used in manufacturing, retail and warehouses, to complete an application and pass a test to obtain a license from the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS).  The regulation applies to all hoisting machinery used on private or public property where the height of the lift exceeds 10 feet or the weight of the load exceeds 500 pounds. Section 53 (e) of the amended law added the following exemption to the licensing requirements for:

“A company which operates hoisting equipment specifically limited to industrial lift trucks, forklifts, overhead cranes and other hoisting equipment, specifically authorized by the department, and used exclusively on company property.”

The amendment states that the exemption will only apply if a company has:

at least one supervisory employee on site at all times of operation that holds a license issued by the Department under this section and is designated as the responsible person in charge of hoisting equipment during that period of operation; and
an in-service training program for employees approved by the department which may be audited by the department.

Q: What is in-service training?

A: In-service training is a company program, approved by the Department, which is required to be performed by those entities that have been labeled as exempt from the hoisting license requirements.  In-service training programs must be monitored by a holder of a Massachusetts Hoisting License of equal or greater grade.  Each in-service training program licensee must satisfactorily complete the program and pass an examination.  The company issuing licenses through an in-service training program must have a method to determine the authenticity of their licenses and must submit a copy of each license issued to the Department as well as maintain and have readily accessible uniform records of all licenses issued.

Q: What is the procedure for exempt company’s in-service training program?

A: All previously approved in-service training programs will have their approval rescinded 120 days from the date that this section becomes effective and must reapply for approval.  All in-service training program approvals will be valid for two-years from the date of issuance.

Q: When can a company apply to have their in-service training program approved?

A: A company can file for approval of their in-service training program to the Department on the date that this section becomes effective.

Q: What happens if the Department learns that an in-service training program has falsified documents?

A: If the Department learns that a company operating an in-service training program has falsified attendance records or fraudulently issued company licenses it may be grounds for formal proceedings under M.G.L. c. 146, § 59 and c. 30A, and/or revocation or suspension of the approval to issue company licenses.

Q: What must continuing education programs consist of?

A: Continuing education programs must be approved by the Department and consist of a curriculum that complies with certain Department requirements.

Q: What documentation must continuing education programs provide?

A: Training facilities must provide a list of all instructors, along with each instructor’s Massachusetts Hoisting License number.  All training facilities must issue a certificate of completion to all those who satisfactorily complete a continuing education course.  The falsification of attendance records or fraudulent issuance of a certificate of completion may be grounds for formal proceedings under M.G.L. c. 146, § 59 and c. 30A.

Q: What is a certificate of completion?

A: A certificate of completion is a uniform certificate issued by a training facility to all of those who successfully complete a continuing education program.

3.  Company licenses issued to each trained and certified employee shall contain a picture of the licensee, a list of the specific hoisting equipment the licensee      has been qualified to operate, and the signature of the supervisor who holds a department license.

How does it affect companies? Can you be an exempt company?


The DPS is proposing a change to the regulations to match the added exemption to Section 53(e) of the law. A company seeking to comply with the hoisting license requirements and exemption must first designate a supervisory employee(s) to be responsible for the operation of hoisting equipment.  The supervisory employee(s) must then obtain a Class 1C hoisting license from the DPS.  After the designated employee(s) receives a license from the DPS, the company must then provide the DPS with a copy of its complete training program used to train employees to operate forklifts.  The company must provide DPS with the complete training program, not just a description or outline.

After the DPS approves the company’s training program, the supervisor(s) issued a Class 1C hoisting license then is responsible to train employees in accordance with the approved program.  Authorized operators would then be issued a license that includes: a picture; a list of the specific equipment that the employee is qualified to operate; and the signature of the supervisor who holds the Class 1C license and who conducted the training and evaluation.  Employees can only be trained and certified to operate the specific equipment for which the supervisory employee holds a license issued by the DPS.  At all times of operation, there must be a supervisory employee on-site who holds a license.

Potential fines for noncompliance

In addition to the above, the DPS drafted a new regulation, 520 CMR 1.00, that establishes standards for issuing monetary fines for violations of certain statutes and regulations. The DPS is now authorized, under MGL Chapter 22, Section 21, to assess fines of up $5,000 for violations of certain statutes and regulations, including hoisting.

FAQ’s on Massachusetts Hoisting licenses

Q. What activities are covered under the hoisting regulations?

A: The regulations, appearing in 520 CMR 6.00, apply to any hoisting machinery where the height of the lift exceeds ten feet or the weight of the load exceeds 500 pounds or the capacity of the bucket exceeds 1/4 cubic yard capacity. See 520 CMR 6.01.

Q. Who must have a hoisting operator’s license?

A. Anyone who will operate derricks, cableways, machinery used for discharging cargoes, temporary elevator cars used on excavation work or used for hoisting building material, when the motive power to operate such machinery is mechanical and other than steam, must hold a license from the Department. See M.G.L. c. 146, §53.

Q. Can I renew my Hoisting license on the website?

A. No, not at this time.

Q. How old do I have to be to obtain a hoisting license?

A. You must be 18 years of age or older.

Q. Do I need to fill out my own application?

A: Yes you must fill out an application, and you must possess a valid and current driver’s license and DOT Health card to operate hoisting machinery.

Q: Where can I get a DOT Physical?

Most Primary Care Physicians preform DOT Physicals. If yours does not, you can contact one of the Occupational Health Centers below.

Jordan on the Job
45 Resnik Road
Plymouth, MA 02360
(508) 732-0401
M-T 8:00-4:30
F 8-4
Appointment required $100.00

Quincy Medical Center
Occupational Health Services
114 Whithall St
Quincy, MA 02169
(617) 376-5700
M-F 8:00-4:30
Appointment Required $70.00

Occupational Health Services
Sturdy Hospital
211 Park St.
Attleboro, MA 02703
(508) 236-7500
M-T 8:00-4:30
F 7:00-3:00
Appointment Required $74.00

Occupational Health Services
52 Crest Ave
Winthrop, MA 02152
(617) 846-6131
M-F 8:00-4:00
Call for same day appointment if available $70.00
Cash only

Q. What if I am denied an examination because I do not possess the minimum qualifications for the license?

A. You may appeal to the Chief who will appoint three Board members to hear the appeal. See 520 CMR 6.03.

Q. What is on the Hoisting Operator examination?

A. The exam tests practical knowledge of all working parts of the hoisting machinery, safe operating practices, safety inspection of the equipment, hand signals, and the Massachusetts State Statutes and Regulations. You should have a thorough knowledge of Massachusetts General Laws, c.146, §§ 53-55, and §§ 64-67. You should also have a thorough knowledge of the Massachusetts Regulations 520 CMR 6.00 for hoisting machinery.

Q. Are there any study aids available for the Hoisting Operator examination?

A. Yes, Massachusetts Regulations 520 CMR 6.00 for hoisting machinery, Massachusetts General Law on Licenses of Engineers, Firemen and operators of hoisting machinery, and the manufactures’ operating procedures for your forklift. You can also use the following resources:

1. OSHA Regulations (website: www.osha.gov  )

2. Dig Safe (website: www.digsafe.com ; telephone: 1-888-dig-safe (344-7233)

3. Owner’s Manuals and/or Safety Manuals (website: www.aem.org  or www.jjkeller.com )

4. Application for DOT Physical (can be downloaded from our website at www.mass.gov/dps )

5. Bob’s Rigging and Crane Handbook

6. The Mobile Crane Manual

Q. Is there any exemption from the requirement to produce a copy of my DOT physical?

A. No. No one is exempt. You must provide a copy of your D.O.T physical.

Q. Do I need a license to operate hoisting machinery on my own property?

A. Yes. Provided the rental company has an approved program, the hoisting machinery regulations allow individuals renting hoisting machinery to obtain a temporary license from the rental company, receive one (1) hour of training from the company and allow a fourteen (14) consecutive day rental period . See 520 6.05(11).

Q. How do I obtain a hoisting license if I am renting equipment from a rental company?

A. Provided the rental company has an approved program, homeowners may rent hoisting machinery from a rental company for a period of time not to exceed fourteen (14) consecutive days. The rental company must provide one (1) hour of training for each type of equipment rented, and renters must be trained in the “proper and safe operation” of the equipment. After the training, the rental company must issue a temporary license to operate the rented equipment. See 520 CMR 6.05 (11).

Q. How long is my temporary hoisting license valid?

A. The temporary license and rental of equipment cannot exceed 14 days. See 520 CMR 6.05(11).

Q. How many questions are on the test?

A. The test will be about 50 – 60 multiple choice questions, and you must score a 70% or above to pass.

Q. Do I need a hoisting license to operate hoisting machinery exclusively for agricultural purposes?

A. No. M.G.L. c. 146, § 53 provides an exemption for hoisting machinery used exclusively for agricultural purposes.

Q. Are there any other exemptions to the licensing requirements?

A. Aside from the agricultural exemption (see above), Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 146, Section 53 allows for two additional exemptions: (1) for public utility companies that have “self-propelled truck mounted cranes, derricks and similar hoisting equipment which is used for the maintenance and construction of the equipment of such company and which has at least one supervisory employee who holds a license issued by the department and is designated as the responsible person in charge of hoisting equipment.” (2) for any other company which has equipment such as cranes, derricks and similar hoisting equipment used only upon utility company property. These exemptions apply only if such companies have an in-service training program for employees, approved by the department, and “the company issues each trained and certified employee a company license.”

Q. Does United Alliance Services offer forklift training and the Massachusetts licensing prep courses?

A. Yes, Please contact via phone at: 877-399-1698 or email at: safetysolutions@unitedallianceservices.com  You can also fill out a training request by clicking here.

Q. After I have taken the class with United Alliance Services, where do I go to take my tests?

A. Your testing location is determined by the area you work. Below are the testing locations based on work locations.

·        North Shore: Bunker Hill Community College

·        South Shore: Holiday Inn, Taunton, MA

·        Worcester Area: Devens Common Center, Devens, MA

·        Western Part of MA: Mullins Center at UMass Amherst

FACT: Causes of powered industrial truck accidents; OSHA estimates 101 employees are killed on the job every year in industrial truck accidents, and 94,570 injuries occur annually in these kinds of mishaps. According to OSHA research, here are some of the reasons why:

No training
Improper equipment
Tip over, overturn
Struck by powered industrial truck
Operator or another employee struck by a falling load
Elevated employee on truck
Carrying an excess passenger
Ran off loading dock or other surface
Poor maintenance
Accident during maintenance
Lost control of truck
Vehicle left in gear
Operator inattention
Employee overcome by carbon monoxide or propane fuel
Faulty powered industrial truck
Unloading unchocked trailer
Employee fell from vehicle
Improper use of vehicle
Unstable load

Department of Public Safety

One Ashburton Place,
13 th Floor, Room 1301
Boston, MA 02108

Ph: (617) 727-3200
Fax: (617) 727-5732
Email: DPSInfo@state.ma.us

Please do not hesitate to contact us or call at 877-399-1698 if you need further clarification. You can also find forklift training courses here.