Licensing and training to operate telehandlers

Guidance on the competency, licensing and training requirements for operating different types of telehandlers.


What are telehandlers

Telehandlers are used across industries including agriculture, construction and warehousing. They are also known as:

  • variable-reach rough terrain trucks
  • multipurpose tool carriers
  • telescopic material handlers

As defined under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regs), telehandler means powered mobile plant with an articulated or rigid chassis that incorporates a telescopic boom that can be raised or lowered and is capable of being fitted with interchangeable attachments but does not include a backhoe or excavator.

More information about backhoes and excavators

An illustration of various telehandler attachments including: work platform, crane jib, fork arms, hay-bale spikes, grab and earthmoving bucket.
Figure 1: Example of a telehandler and different attachment types

Licensing requirements

A high risk work license (HRWL) is required if an operator is using: 

  • a non-slewing telehandler with a rated capacity over three tonnes
  • a slewing telehandler 
  • a telehandler with a boom-type elevating work platform of 11 metres or more

The HRWL an operator needs depends on the type of telehandler being used and which attachment it is fitted with.

Employers must not allow an employee to perform high risk work (HRW) unless the employee holds the appropriate HRWL.

If the operator is using a telehandler that does not require a HRWL, employers must ensure they provide information, instruction, training and supervision to employees to use the telehandler safely. This is to make sure that employees are skilled and competent to use this type of telehandler without a HRWL.

When a HRWL is required

When determining HRWL requirements for non-slewing telehandlers you must take into consideration the:

  • rated capacity of the telehandler and
  • boom length of any elevated work platform

This determines if a HRWL is required. The rated capacity of the telehandler is the maximum load that the telehandler can lift, fitted with fork arms, with the boom fully retracted.

The rated capacity of a telehandler can be found on the telehandler information plate or the manufacturer’s manual.

The rated capacity of an attachment is not a determining factor when considering if a HRWL is required.

Training requirements

When identifying a training course, look for a course which addresses: 

  • health and safety responsibilities
  • getting to know the operator’s telehandler manual 
  • hazard management – identifying, assessing and controlling hazards 
  • equipment and safety features 
  • prestart (pre-operational) check 
  • control facilities and positions 
  • understanding and identifying telehandler limitations, such as rated capacities and actual capacities, wind rating, and machine weight 
  • moving and positioning the telehandler and attachments
  • driving the telehandler on roads
  • safe loading and unloading of materials and operators
  • working safely near overhead powerlines 
  • selecting, inspecting and using attachments 
  • refueling tools and battery charging 
  • reporting problems and incidents

Information, instruction, supervision and training requirements

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must provide information, instruction, training or supervision to employees, to enable employees to perform their work safely and without risk.

Employers must consult with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) on health and safety matters that affect, or may affect, them.

Employers also have a duty to share information about hazards and risks with employees.

This may include:

  • safe use and operation of the telehandler in the workplace environment
  • identified hazards and control measures to be implemented 
  • how to carry out pre-start checks