Telehandler Training (Zoom Boom) FAQs

Telehandler Training Frequently Asked Questions:
How often do I need telehandler training?
OSHA requires telescopic handler training for forklift operators–on that there is no question. Where confusion exists is how often operators need telehandler refresher training or recertification. Outside of the initial safety training class, OSHA requires forklift operators be re-evaluated every three years to determine if they are still competent enough to operate.

However, this every-three-year forklift evaluation is the maximum time that is allowed to pass before an operator receives telehandler recertification. According to OSHA, there are several instances that will require additional forklift training and observation before the three year period is up:

Telehandler operator is observed in an accident or a near miss
Telehandler operator received a poor evaluation or is observed driving in a dangerous manner
The telehandler operator is assigned to drive a different type of forklift or the workplace has changed significantly enough to require additional forklift training (such as being transferred from a warehouse to a dock or a construction site)
I’ve received telescopic handler training. Can I operate a sit down counterbalanced forklift?
Not necessarily. OSHA requires forklift operators to receive forklift training for each type of forklift. On this term, “type,” there is much confusion. Generally speaking, by “type” OSHA means sit down forklift vs. stand up forklift vs. telescopic handler vs. truck mounted forklift, etc. For example, say you have always operated a telehandler on a construction site but have suddenly been asked to operate a sit down forklift in a warehouse or on a dock. In this case, you would need additional forklift training specific to sit down counterbalanced forklifts.

If you have received telehandler forklift training on a construction site and have always operated a Gradall telehandler, but then are asked to operate a JCB telehandler, you should be just fine to operate under the same training certification received previously. Keep in mind though, controls can differ greatly from brand to brand, so in some cases you may need additional instruction or a quick refresher training to make sure you are clear on what each control does.

I’ve operated telehandlers for 30 years. Do I need to take a class, a written exam, and a practical exam still? Or can I just take a written test?
No matter how long you’ve been on the job, OSHA requires telehandler training, a telehandler written exam, and a practical telehandler evaluation. There is no way around it. This goes for other types of forklifts too. The extent of the classroom telehandler training can be adapted by the instructor according to student needs. The written exam proves mental competency and understanding of the safety principles taught. And the practical evaluation proves the forklift operator not only understands but is capable of operating the machine safely. In the opinion of many, the practical evaluation is of the greatest overall value, but all components are necessary.

I received telehandler training at a different job. Do I need to be trained again by my new employer?
This is a common question, especially among laborers-for-hire who may sub out from job to job. Technically, it is your current employer who is responsible for saying whether or not you have been trained specifically for the type of forklift and job. If you bring a telehandler certificate or wallet card to your new employer, they do not have to accept it. It is their right to require you to take their own training class. This is because if there is an accident, they will likely be responsible and need to prove to OSHA that they trained you on telehandler operations.

Can you explain telehandler certification? Who can train, evaluate, and certify operators?
This, above all, causes a lot of confusion. Bottom line, OSHA states that employers are responsible to train their employees. Generally speaking, there are three ways they can do this:

Train employees in-house with their own program
Hire a 3rd party to train the employees (on-site or off-site)
Use another company’s materials or online classes to train employees
In terms of using a 3rd part of a safety training companies materials (like our telehandler training kits on CD or our telehandler online training classes) OSHA does not recognize one company over another. They simply state that ‘training needs to occur’ and ‘here are the things a forklift operator should be trained on.’

When we do live training or offer telehandler training online, people often assume we are the ones certifying the trainees. This is not true for any training company. We are simply assisting the employer by providing live telehandler training or the telehandler training materials needed to help them telehandler certify their employees.

How do I take the telehandler practical evaluation if I take telehandler training online?
The online telehandler training class covers OSHA’s requirements for the classroom portion. Many employers prefer online training because they know exactly what forklift training the operator will receive. In live classes, the training sometimes varies. A written exam is included at the end of our online training courses. After the telehandler class and exam are finished, you and your safety managers will have immediate access to a practical evaluation checklist. This can be printed off and used by your supervisor to help him or her evaluate you on the forklift. When done, they can sign it and file it with your exam. This will satisfy OSHA’s requirements for telehandler certification.

Are personnel work platform (man-baskets) even legal for telehandlers?
Yes, but there is a lot of confusion. Much of it arises from 1926.602 (c)(1)(viii)(B), which states: “Means shall be provided whereby personnel on the platform can shut off power to the truck.” Many interpret this to mean that man-baskets cannot be used because most lack controls that can be used to raise, lower, and shut off the machine. However, to understand (B), we need to look back to the parent regulation under which (B) falls.

In this case, 1926.602 (c)(1)(viii) states that “whenever a truck is equipped with vertical only, or vertical and horizontal controls elevatable with the lifting carriage or forks for lifting personnel, the following additional precautions shall be taken for the protection of personnel being…” As a result, (B) only applies to telehandlers with baskets that have controls built in.

The bottom line is this: the particular work platform you are using must be approved by the manufacturer of the forklift you are using. Not all telehandler manufacturers allow them. And when they do, there are very strict standards you must follow.

Operators must have read the operator’s manual for the basket
They must have received telehandler training specific to working in work platforms
The platform must have all warning labels and capacity plates, and the must be in legible condition
The operator must remain in the cab and not drive the telehandler with personnel in the basket
Appropriate PPE and fall arrest gear must be inspected and worn
And telehandlers are to be used to list personnel unless there is no other practical option
With this in mind, if you have a scissor lift or boom lift available, use it. If not, refer to your operator’s manual regarding man baskets and follow their instructions strictly.

Since a telehandler operates more like a crane than a forklift, can we rig a load to the forks?
No. OSHA calls this practice “free rigging.” More specifically, free-rigging is the direct placement of a load under the forks of a telehandler or other type of forklift by way of rigging gear (slings, shackles, rings, etc.). It is a common practice, but it is not within regulations as, according to OSHA, “it does not use an approved lifting attachment” and “it could affect the capacity and safe operation” of a forklift.

That said, most telescopic handlers have jib attachments approved by the telehandler manufacturer. Some of these even come equipped with winches and hoisting capabilities. Make sure any attachment you use is approved before using it. An approved jib must be used unless the operators can first obtain written permission from the manufacturer.

My trainee scored 80% on the exam. Did he pass or fail?
Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not dictate what a passing score entails. That is ultimately up to the employer whose responsibility it is to certify, or authorize, their employee to operate a telehandler. If you want to pass him at 80%, fine. But what if a question or two among the 20% missed could lead to an accident or death? Is it worth it? Our recommendation is that you always go over any missed questions with your trainees—even if they just missed one. Once they understand the principle missed, have them write their initials by the correct answer. That way, you are protecting them and those around them from potential accidents in the future.

What is a telehandler?
A telescopic handler is a type of forklift, though it functions like a crane. Originally manufactured in the United Kingdom, it is known by a number of other names, including telescopic handler, reach forklift, rough terrain forklift lift, reach stacker, multipurpose handler, zoom boom, etc. They are sometimes referred to by the brand as well, such as Skytacker, Gradall, and the like. They have become an increasingly common sight at virtually every work site. It operates more like a crane with telescoping boom functionality. As a result, it is extremely important that operator’s refer to capacity charts and reach diagrams prior to lifting a load.