Popular myths about training requirements and so-called ‘licences’ for fork lift truck operators may compromise safety in the workplace – especially when seasonal workers are hired.

One of the Fork Lift Truck Association’s most important roles is to simplify and explain the complicated safety legislation surrounding fork lift trucks, helping users and suppliers to recognise and act upon their responsibilities.

Each day, the FLTA office receives enquiries from companies throughout the materials handling industry, seeking clarification and guidance, and this gives us an overview of which topics are proving problematic in the workplace.

Licence’ to kill?

One of the most widespread – and potentially dangerous – myths is that there is a ‘Fork Lift Truck Driver’s Licence’ which must be renewed through refresher training every three years.

But the fact is: there is NO SUCH THING as a Fork Lift Truck Licence… and current HSE guidance contains NO requirement for routine refresher training.

Instead, HSE actually calls for regular MONITORING and routine REASSESSMENT of operators to see whether additional training is needed. This might reveal a training requirement, but 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 is exacerbated by operators holding fork truck permits obtained in other countries that do have national licensing schemes – which, nonetheless, may be quite incompatible with British best practice, and should not be taken as carte blanche to operate any given truck anywhere.

Despite such widespread uncertainty, the actual HSE guidance is clear:  reassessment is the key.

Some of the confusion might 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… But this should be tailored to each one’s particular needs to improve the safety of all operators – whether seasonal or permanent.

In need of refreshment?

This is a question that an employer must consider on a regular basis 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.

A very welcome safety initiative, supported by the FLTA, has been the online operator assessment and monitoring tool from multimedia experts Interactive Driving Systems. This offers a quick, easy and very inexpensive way of fulfilling an employer’s duty to reassess.

Virtual Risk Manager – FLT can be found on the FLTA website – www.fork-truck.org.uk – where it is available at a nominal charge of just £25 per operator. The package will provide personalised written feedback and will clearly identify any areas in which the operator may need refresher training.

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 staff training needs, it is prudent to check that they have been accredited by one of these bodies and that the accreditation is current.

Details of the accrediting bodies, including their areas of specialism, are provided in the HSE booklet L117. However, the contact details are generally out of date.  Fact Sheet 6, produced by the FLTA, is available free from the website www.fork-truck.org.uk and provides current contact details for all accrediting bodies.

Don’t forget non-operators

Hundreds of employees are left seriously injured by fork lift trucks each year. Many of the injuries sustained lead to disability – and in some cases death. Sadly, many of these employees weren’t operating the truck at the time – they just happened to get in the way.

Pedestrians often don’t understand the dangers associated with fork lift operations.  They assume that they can be avoided. Fork lift trucks and pedestrians simply don’t mix – and that is the problem.

Although the best advice 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.

The easy-to-read booklet has been written in two parts. The first section is aimed at employees and provides them with the basic information that they should know for their own safety and that of others around them. Although beneficial to truck operators and users, it has been specifically written for those working alongside them.

Written specifically for employers, the booklet’s second part examines legal responsibilities, safety equipment and safety resources. Safe practice is strongly encouraged through the exploration of health and safety issues.

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 www.fork-truck.org.uk, email mail@fork-truck.org.uk 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.

David Ellison, FLTA Chief Executive

To find out more about the FLTA and its activities visit www.fork-truck.org.uk, email mail@fork-truck.org.uk or call the FLTA office on 01256 381441.


  1. At my place of employment, I recently received refresher training for a reach truck from an outside agency. I was already familiar with the HSE position on this subject and when I raised this with the trainer, he basically lied, stating that refresher training at fixed periods was an absolute *legal requirement*. Naturally, training agencies want the myth of compulsory re-training at set intervals to be perpetuated, since it brings in regular business. I assume that they rely upon both warehouse managers and human resources personnel not knowing their stuff, which sadly, many of them don’t. Regards.

  2. hi guys i havent driven a fork truck since 2003 i did hold a rittb licence which ran out in 2006, what course do i need to put myself on? can i just do a refresher to bring me up to speed or do i book myself on a full 5 day course for begginers? i am talking legally and not competence as i am a very competant driver.

    thank you