Alberta presses for safer forklift practices

News Story
- 4 Aug 2011 ( #525 ) - Edmonton, AB, Canada
2 min read
The Province of Alberta's recent focused occupational health and safety (OHS) inspections of forklift operations show a need to increase compliance with existing laws, the employment and immigration ministry says.

At the same time, the ministry believes awareness of the inspection blitz has moved things in the right direction and says reports from forklift trainers indicate a substantial increase in demand for operator training since the province announced the campaign in February.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), was critical of Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk's forklift-safety effort as insufficient (Forkliftaction.com News #513). The campaign from 22 February to 18 March involved 87 employers and 181 inspections and resulted in 214 corrective orders relating to forklifts and other powered mobile equipment.

On 4 May, the AFL's McGowan may have been wrong in suggesting Alberta institute a mandatory system for training and certification of forklift operators.

In responding to McGowan's comments, the ministry notes that forklift operators already must undergo mandatory training under Alberta OHS legislation such as section 15 of the OHS regulation and section 256 of the OHS code.

While forklift trainers routinely issue certificates to operators who have successfully completed training programs, the government has no current plans to make it mandatory for a forklift operator to personally carry his or her certificate, according to Sorcha Thomas in the communications office of the ministry in Edmonton. "Rather than asking to see training certificates, our OHS officers use observations of forklift operations to assess whether workers are competent to operate the equipment safely as required under section 13 of the OHS regulation."

A worker may achieve the competency through in-house training courses. An employer is responsible to ensure that workers are properly trained in the safe operation of the equipment in workplaces.

Throughout the campaign, employers told OHS inspectors that they needed a clearer understanding of what is expected of them.

Of the 214 orders, 24 were related to requirements for proper inspection and maintenance, 20 for failure to conduct a visual inspection prior to operating the equipment, 16 for hazard assessment requirements and 14 for inadequate worker training, competency and proper supervision to safely operate the equipment.

To support employers, the government of Alberta developed a 48-page Forklift Health and Safety Best Practices Guideline that was completed in December.

"We will continue to enforce the OHS legislation, distribute the best practices guideline and monitor the situation," Thomas says.

In other focused campaigns, OHS inspectors recently issued 181 orders on 118 work places employing 15-24-year-old workers and will blitz employers in residential construction soon.
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