Forklift Operator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Forklift Operator, or Material Handler, is a certified warehouse or manufacturing associate responsible for controlling heavy machinery to move materials around a work site. Their duties include preparing merchandise and securing it for safe, easy transport, using radio communications to determine priorities and performing regular machine maintenance on forklifts and other tools.

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Forklift Operator duties and responsibilities

In this section, you’ll be able to tell applicants exactly what it is you expect them to do. Try to give them a good idea as to what is expected of them when they start working for your company. Your section might look something like this:

A Forklift Operator needs to be able to operate powered industrial machinery with ease. They may need to use scanners to keep track of the items they are moving. They may also need to prepare those items to be moved, by placing them on pallets, wrapping them, etc. Other duties may include: 

  • Checking for damaged goods
  • Staying aware of possible hazards
  • Maintaining/repairing forklift and other equipment
  • Recording data about the products they are moving
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Forklift Operator Job Description Examples

What does a Forklift Operator do?

Forklift Operators are employed by manufacturing and shipping companies at factories, construction sites, warehouses and other storage spaces to safely and efficiently transport heavy cargo based on necessary workflows. Forklift Operators track inventory, inspect goods before and after shipping to identify imperfections or damage, lift heavy materials onto pallets and secure them with cord or packaging, stack merchandise and count inventory in-stock to fill orders. Forklift Operators can operate different types of lifting machinery such as pallet jacks, order pickers, side loaders, reach fork trucks and counterbalance forklifts depending on the tasks they need to complete and a warehouse’s setup.

Forklift Operator skills and qualifications

A successful Forklift Operator will have the necessary skills and qualifications that prepare them for the job. This includes any training certifications you may require for the position, as well as more specific skills they might need. If there are any software programs they need to be familiar with, this is where you list them. Examples of skills and qualifications a forklift operator may need are:

  • Education requirements (i.e. high school diploma, GED, etc.)
  • Physical requirements
  • Safety training certifications
  • Years of experience in the field they’re applying for
  • Ability to operate powered industrial machinery
  • They must be over the age of 18

Forklift Operator salary expectations

A Forklift Operator makes an average of $14.39 per hour. Pay rate may depend on level of education, experience and geographical location.

Forklift Operator education and training requirements

Most employers require Forklift Operators to have their high school diploma or GED. Depending on what items the operator might be moving, the operator may need specialized certifications, especially when they’re transporting chemicals and dangerous items. The operator may also need to complete a training course on how to use the machines they’ll be using, and then pass a test of their knowledge. Often, these courses and tests are provided by the employers who hire them. Without proper training, a forklift operator is at risk of creating a dangerous environment for other employees and to themselves.

Forklift Operator experience requirements

Many employers require forklift operators to have experiences working in a similar environment to the one they’re applying to. Their applicants must have experience working in a warehouse, construction site, in the outdoors—anywhere that might prepare them for the environment a prospective employer might put them in. Some employers also require actual forklift operating experience, especially those who work with sensitive materials such as chemicals. No matter what the forklift operator is moving, they must be certified to use the machine. The level of experience they are required to have depends on the employer’s needs.

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Frequently asked questions about Forklift Operators?


What is the difference between a Forklift Operator and a Warehouse Associate?

Forklift Operators and Warehouse Associates regularly work together to fill orders, but Forklift Operators have a more specialized position and require advanced certifications. Warehouse Associates are often entry-level employees while Forklift Operators are mid-level positions with more experience. While Warehouse Associates work with small items, Forklift Operators are necessary for moving large pieces of inventory. Warehouse Associates provide general assistance on the warehouse floor and may hand-pick, sort and package orders. After a Forklift Operator moves a large pallet of inventory to its correct location, Warehouse Associates update records, organize stock, apply shipping labels and drive trucks to a distributor.


What should you look for on a Forklift Operator's resume?

A Forklift Operator’s resume should clearly list their certifications, especially an OSHA-approved forklift operator course. They should have previous experience in a warehouse environment and identify how their workflow improved efficiency at their workplace. A strong Forklift Operator resume showcases their ability to follow set procedures to meet quotas.


What are the characteristics of a good Forklift Operator?

Good Forklift Operators are highly perceptive and aware of their surroundings, allowing them to safely operate dangerous machinery. Successful Forklift Operators are able to memorize complex safety procedures, incorporate them into their own daily habits and keep their team accountable for upholding the same standards of safety. They are focused and have excellent stamina to keep up with the physical demands of loading heavy materials and working in a fast-paced construction, manufacturing or shipping environment. A good Forklift Operator is great at time management, able to complete their role on a team according to an optimized, efficient schedule.


What are the daily duties of a Forklift Operator?

Forklift Operators can work eight-hour shifts at any time of day with occasional overtime, depending on the operating hours of their facility. They begin their shift by inspecting their equipment and ensuring that they can operate each machine safely. If a machine does not meet safety standards, the Forklift Operator repairs any safety accessories or mechanical elements or puts in a request to have their machine serviced. They put on safety equipment like hard hats, gloves and heavy lifting braces, identify hazards and blind spots, arrange pallets, manage cargo and delegate tasks to Warehouse Associates.

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