One of the most widespread myths about fork lift truck operations is that there is a ‘Fork Lift Truck Driver’s Licence’, which must be renewed through refresher training every three years.

Each month, more than 7,000 people search the internet for information about obtaining one of these elusive cards…

It all becomes clear when you look through a local paper’s job pages, where you’ll quickly find managers and supervisors looking for operatives who must have an up to date forklift licence.

But the fact is: in the UK there is NO SUCH THING as a Fork Lift Truck Licence… and current HSE guidance contains NO requirement for routine refresher training within any type of fixed timescale.

Regulation 9 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98), requires employers to ensure that employees have adequate training before using work equipment. Training should be delivered, either by an in-house or external trainer, on each type of equipment an operator may be expected to use.

Written authority from an employer is required before an operator may actually operate a piece of equipment. This document should indicate what can be operated and any restrictions that may apply. It may be based on a training certificate, but it is NOT a licence.

It remains solely with the employer to determine how long this authority remains valid, but it is good practice to ensure that the performance of all operators is formally monitored. The HSE actually calls for regular MONITORING and ASSESSMENT to identify whether additional training is needed. While this may reveal a training requirement, equally it might not – and employers have more options than they might think.

Similarly, the false idea that employees can hold a transferable, national ‘driving licence’, entitling them to operate fork lift trucks, is fraught with danger. It undermines the vital obligation for operators to have their knowledge and skills reassessed whenever moving to a new working environment or type of truck, and can even tempt busy employers not to properly assess new recruits or agency staff.

The confusion may have arisen through common training programmes which insist upon refresher training at three-year intervals. Make no mistake – it is absolutely vital that all fork lift truck operators, however experienced, receive appropriate training from a properly accredited provider as and when it is required… However, this should be tailored to each individual’s particular needs and those of their employer.

This situation is further exacerbated by some operators holding fork truck permits obtained in other countries that do, in fact, have national licensing schemes. However, these may be quite incompatible with British best practice, and should not be taken as carte blanche to operate any given truck anywhere. They are not valid.

Despite this widespread uncertainty, the actual HSE guidance is clear: monitoring and assessment are key.

In need of refreshment?

An employer must consider – on a regular basis – the training requirements for every fork lift operator. But it doesn’t mean that every operator should automatically receive refresher training at some regular fixed interval – which could be wasteful of time and resources. What is needed is a regular reassessment of the operator – from which the employer can see if there are any weak areas that necessitate further training. For example, instead of training a whole team, a supervisor or manager can target those individuals most in need… or can pinpoint a particular problem affecting everyone – and address that specifically. As a result, the training is more appropriate, more meaningful and much more cost-effective than a blanket refresher course on a one-size-fits-all basis.

Recognising a good thing

The Health and Safety Executive recognises a number of bodies as being competent to accredit training organisations for the training of fork lift truck instructors and operators. When selecting a trainer or training company for your training needs, it is prudent to check that they have been accredited by one of these bodies and that the accreditation is current.

Full details on these bodies, including areas of specialism, can be found in HSE booklet L117, which is currently under review. Current contact details for all accrediting bodies can also be found in the FLTA’s FREE Fact Sheet 6, available from

Don’t forget non-operators

Although the best advice for anyone working nearby is to keep well clear of any fork lift in operation, we are aware that sometimes it’s unavoidable.

For their own safety, and that of others, anyone working near a fork lift truck should be familiar with their dangers – and dangerous practices… all of which are illustrated in the FLTA booklet Employee Safety: Working with Fork Lift Trucks.

Understanding the relevant facts is essential for any employer with fork lift trucks operating in the workplace. It better places them to help protect all of their employees, and others, who may come into contact with their trucks – and their business.

To order Employee Safety: Working with Fork Lift Trucks or to find out more about the FLTA and its activities visit, email or call the FLTA office on 01256 381441.

The Employee Safety Booklet is part of the Operator/Employee Safety series which covers subjects including counterbalance trucks, daily or pre-shift checks and warehouse lifting equipment.

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