The term fork lift refers to a variety of motor-powered trucks equipped with lifting forks that are used for loading, unloading, and organizing materials that are stacked on pallets or designed for lifting with forks. Fork lifts are essential equipment for industrial warehouses and large-scale shipping and receiving operations. A fork lift operator is a specialized worker trained to drive and utilize the lifting capabilities of one or a number of the various types of fork lift. Many countries and regions require fork lift operator training and, in some cases, a fork lift operator license, due to the potentially dangerous nature of the work and the high value of merchandise handled by lifts.
A fork lift operator is generally employed in the shipping and receiving of large quantities of merchandise in and out of one facility, whether in manufacturing, shipping and receiving, or distribution. Fork lifts are often used to unload materials from trucks, ships, and other large containers used in shipping and distribution. Lift operators are also responsible for arranging materials for storage and loading large containers for shipment to other facilities. The scale of materials transported and lifts used varies greatly depending on the type of industry in question.
In addition to simply driving a fork lift, working as a fork lift operator requires the ability to properly lift, balance, and stack heavy loads that are ordinarily arranged on a wood pallet or a pallet made from other materials. Larger items may be attached to a pallet or have indents for fork lifting built into the item itself. Warehouse organization and shipping and receiving operations are focused on utilizing as little space as possible to arrange materials. Therefore, a fork lift operator must be able to use the machine to fit large, heavy pallets into relatively small areas, such as large shelving fixtures.
There are numerous types of fork lifts produced to service a variety of industries, and they fluctuate greatly in terms of size and operation. Due to the widely varying types of fork lifts produced, fork lift operation may require certification and licensure. In fact, one fork lift operation position may require certification for several different machines, depending on the range of merchandise and machines involved in the work place. Certification requirements are not standard worldwide, and while some regions may have stringent requirements, other areas may not require certification or licensure.