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A forklift operator is a person skilled in the use of tractors enabled with forklifts to move heavy loads from one place to the other. He also drives forklift trucks, which are industrial vehicles used in the construction or other industries, where heavy materials are required to be moved.
Determination of the weight of a load is a key task that needs to be done by a forklift operator. This would ensure if the machine has the necessary capacity to handle that load. The load has to be marked with a tag specifying the weight. To shift the required load, the forklift is to be placed under it. Using the controls, the load is lifted and moved to the place where it is required to be repositioned or stacked and should be so placed that the unloading workers are able to unload it properly.
Forklift operators should be good judges of the distances between objects. This is because they need to pick and place heavy objects by operating the controlling knobs, switches and levers located inside the cab of the forklift while sitting in the cab of their truck. Any miscalculation could result in extensive damage to person and property. They should be a good listener and be able to understand and interpret written and verbal instructions clearly. They must also be able to pose intelligent questions to clear any doubts with respect to the work required to be done.
The nature of the work requires consultation with a supervisor on a regular basis for setting up tasks and goals but there may be times when the operator should be able to work on their own without such coordination. The work timings may be in shifts comprising a total of about 40 hours per week. Adherence to strict schedules is part of the job.
Most of the work time of forklift operators is spent indoors in factory sheds, warehouses and other such places. In most cases, the climatic conditions are not controlled. They have to work inside the cab of the forklift truck. Having to work in cramped spaces, they are exposed to situations that may be hazardous and therefore, they would need to make use of protective gear such as hard hats and gloves. The noise level is also unusually high due to the operating of machines in the place of work.
The job requires familiarity with working on machines, as day to day maintenance and other sundry work on the machine being used needs to be done by the operators themselves. They should also be familiar with the use of tools necessary to repair the machine, if required.
Sound physical health is essential, as the nature of the work requires bending, stretching, lifting and pushing heavy objects. It requires the ability to withstand physical exertion for long periods of time without getting exhausted. Good eyesight and the ability to react quickly are also necessary.
Educational qualifications required to specialize as a forklift operator are a high school diploma or GED which would include courses in Mathematics, English, Science and Physical Education. No license or certification is generally required for this occupation. The operator learns his work through on the job training by working under experienced operators starting from the position of a helper and gradually working his way up to becoming a full time operator.
Forklift operators at the national level numbering about 600000 are mostly engaged in trucking companies, warehouses or construction companies. The average hourly wages drawn by a forklift operator are between $11 and $17. As per employment opportunities currently available in the US, a skilled forklift operator can net an average monthly income of between $1800 and $2500.
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