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Should Forklift Drivers Wear Hard Hats?

Should forklift drivers wear hard hats? Bottom line, yes, forklift drivers definitely should wear hard hats. OSHA Requirements do not require them to do so, but if safety is your goal, then it is better to be safe rather than sorry in the case of an accident.

Why Wear PPE?

Many operations at your workplace may seem safe enough to do without personal protective equipment (PPE). Tasks like performing pre-shift inspections, loading worksite materials, or driving enclosed vehicles are not generally associated with hazards. However, you could still be at risk for hazards around you even if not every operation and task may need PPE.

Wearing the right PPE will protect you from surrounding hazards and situations you can’t control. Wearing PPE is one way you can take control and be ready should something happen. Even if your employer does not require it, you should always wear PPE. Consider the following true story:

While waiting to be evaluated for operating a forklift, an employee was told by his employer that hard hats were not required. The employee knew it was a wise idea to wear a hard hat, but decided not to wear one since his employer did not require it. While working that day, a long wooden board fell suddenly from the second story of the building he was in. The board struck his head, which bled profusely until treated with stitches at the hospital.

Even though he was not required to wear one, the employee would have benefited from wearing a hard hat. He chose not to, and even though the accident was out of his control, he could have prevented the need for stitches that resulted from it.

OSHA Rules Regarding Hard Hats

Official OSHA Requirements dictate that employees are not required to wear hard hats “where employees are not exposed to possible head injuries” (OSHA). This means that hard hats are required any time there is a risk of head injury from falling objects or impact.

The story above proved to us that even employers who believe there is no risk of head injury in their workplace can be wrong. It is impossible for employees to foresee accidents involving falling objects, so it is always best to wear a hard hat anyway.

Is PPE Part of Forklift Safety?

Forklifts are powered industrial trucks that have overhead protection from falling objects, as well as a frame that protects the operator from rollovers. With all these protective measures built into the machine, it might seem unnecessary to wear a hard hat. But even still, accidents can happen where a hard hat would protect the operator.

According to OSHA, PPE is not listed as part of forklift safety. However, PPE protects you from common hazards found when operating forklifts. This means that you should use PPE at all times regardless of the lack of requirement.

What Should Workers Wear?

There are multiple important articles of clothing and PPE that workers should wear to protect themselves. Again, some are required and some aren’t. This all depends on your workplace and the requirements set by your employer.

Hard Hats

If it hasn’t been made clear enough, workers should always wear a hard hat when operating or working near a forklift. There are many hazards involved with forklift operations, including falling objects and collisions. In all these cases, it is essential that you protect your head by wearing a hard hat.

Workplace Attire

Workers should always wear long pants and either a short- or long-sleeved shirt. OSHA Requirements dictate that shorts are not appropriate for construction workers, but other industries that use forklifts do not have those same standards for attire.

Other attire that workers should wear include steel-toed boots and reflective vests. Reflective vests are important because you can more easily be seen when operating a forklift or working near someone else who is operating a forklift.

Safety Gloves and Goggles

Safety gloves and goggles are very important for maintenance operations with forklifts but not necessary for other forklift related operations. There aren’t many situations in which gloves and goggles will protect you when operating with or around a forklift.

However, consider the workplace you are in and wear safety gloves and goggles if they are available. There may be high chances of flying debris or weather conditions that require you to keep your hands warm.

Responsibilities of Forklift Operators

Forklift operators need to have the experience and knowledge to safely perform forklift operations. Understanding these responsibilities is essential to keeping yourself and others around you safe.


Your first responsibility as a forklift operator is to become certified to operate a forklift. You can become certified by taking a course that teaches you the OSHA Requirements associated with forklifts. This will give you the training for how to safely operate a forklift. The course will usually take a few hours and will include quiz questions, a practical exam, and a final exam. After all this is done, you will be certified to operate a forklift.


The course alone only prepares you to drive a forklift; it does not teach you how to drive one right away. This is why training will also be a responsibility you need to take upon yourself as a forklift operator. Your employer, a qualified person, or a trainer will then teach you with hands-on experience how to drive a forklift. The said qualified person will evaluate you with a practical exam that includes all the standard operations you need to perform at your workplace.

Wearing PPE

As discussed earlier, wearing PPE is a major responsibility of forklift operators. It is possibly the most important because it is a responsibility that is not normally imposed on you. You should wear PPE even when you are not required to. Doing so will put you in charge of your own safety, and you will be better prepared for accidents out of your control.

Hard Hat Training for Forklifts

Here at Hard Hat Training, we can provide you with the training and certification you need to become qualified to operate a forklift. Our course materials come in different forms that best fit your needs. We have online and onsite course options, as well as a DIY kit with a unique train-the-trainer module.

Our training can be obtained for both sit-down forklift certification and stand up forklift certification.

Choosing a Hard Hat

The best hard hat for you will be determined by the kind of work you are doing. Not all hard hats are equal, however, and you should always try and get a good quality hard hat to protect yourself from head injuries. The accessories you need will also be determined by the work that you will be doing.  Learn who makes the best hard hats

A few companies have started using carbon fiber and Kevlar as their main composite for their hard hats. These hard hats are ANSI aligned and made with aerospace-grade carbon fiber and Kevlar. Learn more about thisnew hard hat tech.