what is a forklift operator?

As a forklift operator, your job involves operating a forklift. You are fully trained in operating heavy equipment. Knowing how to drive several forklift types through various spaces is important. Sometimes you go on lengthy drives to move materials or shift items from one shelf to another.

As a forklift operator, you work independently. The job involves loading the forklift and driving from point A to B. You should be cautious when moving goods around a warehouse. You also keep track of inventory and follow a schedule of when goods should be transported.

what does a forklift operator do?

Just about any industry that lifts heavy objects needs forklift operators. You can work on construction sites to help move materials or in industrial sites like factories. Many forklift operators work in warehouses and storage sites to handle and move heavy loads. Others work in stores, where they assist with unloading products from trucks or shipping containers.

Would working as a forklift operator suit your exceptional spatial awareness? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a forklift operator role.

forklift operator roles

average forklift operator salary

According to Job Bank, forklift operators earn a salary of $37,050 per year, which translates to $19 per hour. Your entry-level salary in the role is $33,616 annually. Experienced forklift operators earn $46,800 yearly. The salaries for forklift operators differ from region to region. For instance, your salary will be above $39,000 per year in Quebec, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia. On the other hand, in Nova Scotia and Manitoba, you receive a lower salary of $33,150 per year.

how to increase the salary of a forklift operator

As a forklift operator, your earnings depend on various factors. For instance, your location influences your earnings due to the difference in demand or the cost of living. Some regions pay a higher salary compared to others. Your experience and qualifications also influence your earnings. You receive a lower salary when you are new in the role due to your minimal expertise. When you gain more experience, you are likely to earn more.

The industry also affects your earnings. For instance, working in construction pays a different salary than in a warehouse environment. The complexity of the duties increases your salary prospects.

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types of forklift operator

There are several ways to categorize forklift operators, depending on the equipment and the industry they work in. Some of the different types of forklift operators include:

  • counterbalance forklift operators: as a forklift operator, you operate counterbalance forklifts, which are popular in indoor warehouses. The machine usually has forks and weight in the front to counterbalance the load. You manoeuvre the forklift to lift and move loads around indoor storage areas.
  • telescopic forklift operators: a telescopic forklift has the utility features of a crane and the manoeuvrability of a forklift. Since the forklift has an arm that extends from a retracted position, the operator can unload cargo in tight spaces at odd angles.
  • warehouse forklift operators: as a forklift operator, you work in storage facilities and warehouses to load and offload medium-sized pallets and heavy loads. You can work indoors, arranging items on shelves or removing items from delivery trucks.
  • construction forklift operators: as a forklift operator, you can work on construction sites operating forklifts. Your job is to lift loads to high heights and move construction materials around the site.
man operating forklift in warehouse setting
man operating forklift in warehouse setting

working as a forklift operator

If you are excited about working as a forklift operator, check out the duties and responsibilities of a forklift operator.


forklift operator skills and education

Some of the requirements for becoming a forklift operator include:

  • educational qualifications: enrol in a forklift operator course after completing secondary school education. The course usually involves lectures and hands-on practice of forklift operations. When you complete the training, complete a practical test to be certified. You can get the certification after the test, but you should renew the certificate every few years.
  • experience: to work as a forklift operator, you require extensive experience. You can gain experience through on-the-job training and internships. Some companies usually train forklift operators before work commences.

competencies and characteristics of forklift operators

Some of the skills of a forklift operator include:

  • physical skills: you need good spatial awareness and to accurately judge distances and speeds. Strong hand-eye coordination can make it easier to operate a forklift. For most jobs, you need physical fitness. Although the machines handle a lot of heavy lifting, you carry heavy objects, walk around, crouch or climb. You should be comfortable working in hot, cold or physically intense climates.
  • mental skills: the job is highly physical, but you need mental skills as a forklift operator. It is important to have basic analytical knowledge to keep track of inventory and records. Forklift operator roles require self-motivation to handle tasks without constant supervision. You should also remember and follow safety guidelines. You do repetitive and physically demanding tasks without slipping up and forgetting to pay attention to details.
  • computer skills: learning and using standard inventory and order fulfilment software in most workplaces is useful. Your computer skills help you operate computer systems for tracking inventory and managing deliveries of materials and goods.

FAQs about forklift operator jobs

Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a forklift operator.


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