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The legislative information contained on this web site is my interpretation of the law based on many years in the health and safety business. A definitive interpretation can only be given by the courts. I will therefore not be held responsible for any accident/incident/prosecution arising as a consequence of anyone using any information obtained from this web site.

 Forklift licence or certification?

forklift licenceIf anyone can prove to me that they have a UK forklift licence I will give them £100. You can contact me here. Before you start typing please be aware that there is no such thing as a forklift licence in the UK.

One of the problems that instructors and training companies come across is the general lack of knowledge in industry relating to fork lift operator training. Over the years, several myths have built up around the subject and the myth of the forklift licence is one of them.

There is a lot of confusion about this as, in reality, there is no such thing as a forklift licence or a counterbalanced forklift licence. Everyone refers to it as a forklift licence, including employers and job advertisements but in fact it is called a certificate of training and is issued to all those who attend a training course and pass the practical and written tests described on this web site. 

A person does not need a licence to operate a fork lift truck: at least not in the same way as one requires a car licence. You do, however, have to be trained in order to comply with section 2 (c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and also the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, (PUWER).

The proof that a person has attended a training course is in the form of a certificate which will be supplied by the training company involved. It is this document that is usually called a forklift licence as its easier to refer to it in that manner. See this article by Owen Delaney, Technical Manager of the Fork Lift Truck Association.

Some training companies also issue a small plastic covered card - sometimes with a photograph attached - but this is just for the convenience of their customers. These are much less significant in law because they are not worded in the same way as a certificate of basic training. If an operator has one however, s/he should make sure that it is kept safe as it is proof that training has been carried out and it may be accepted by a new employer, at least to start with.


In addition, if an operator works away from his/her main place of employment it can be used to show the new company that the person has been trained. Many companies employing outside contractors will insist on seeing such a document before they will allow a person to operate trucks on their premises.

The A4 sized certificate that one receives should be preserved at all cost as this is the so called forklift licence. Note that this is normally issued to companies and it is up to the employer to decide whether or not to give it to the employee. (The HSE prefer employers to issue this to their employees but one does not have a legal right to demand it from an employer). It should also be noted that if it gets lost it may not be easy to obtain a replacement if at all.

In April 2006 the RTITB started a new scheme which should make it easier to prove that a person has been trained. This is known as NORS - (National Operator Registration Scheme).

When a certificate is issued to a successful operator it should not use the word "Competence". It should read "Certificate of training". The accrediting bodies such as RTITB will not allow accredited training companies to use the word "Competence" on certificates.

The whole point about the certificate of training is that it proves, or is supposed to prove, that the person has attended a course of training of correct duration for their experience and truck type and has passed all parts of the test at the end of it. This is the document that the authorities will want to see in the event of an accident or near miss reported under the RIDDOR regulation.

On top of all this, to comply with the ACOP, an operator must undergo a further two stages of training before they can be considered qualified to operate a forklift truck in a particular environment.

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