Danny Maron, owner/trainer of Ideal Forklift Training in Canada's national capital, is an independent consultant, providing the education lift truck operators require, to businesses and government, to minimise the chance of incidents in the workplace. Before founding Ideal in 2000, Danny was a trainer at Canada's largest forklift dealer.
Forklift trainers, whether they run their own safety firm or are employed by a company, have the option of training two major groups of people: the first is to provide the service to businesses, and the second is training individuals who are currently not employed, or are employed but either the employer is not interested in paying for training to increase their skillset, or the employer just doesn't have enough staff to be trained on the forklift and sending them out is a more cost-effective solution.
For the past 19 years, I have allocated one weekend a month to provide training to these latter individuals. Providing proper training to those seeking their certification and doing the training properly has always been a standard of mine, whether I was working for a company or on my own.
Most of the people who attend these courses are new, with no previous training or experience on a forklift. Most have never sat in a forklift and they attend the course to make themselves marketable to companies seeking staff.
I always felt that one day was not sufficient to create competent operators that can work safely and efficiently in a warehouse/plant environment and that is why the second day was put in place. By offering this full second day of practical training, it gives the students ample time to learn the dynamics of the forklift and offers them an opportunity to practise what they have learned prior to being tested. Does everybody succeed? The answer is no. Some get it and others do not.
With the onslaught of COVID-19, I am forced to provide this training in one solitary day - and I'm not happy about that. The time on the forklift is reduced, not affording sufficient time for the novice operators to get a handle on using the forklift. But times have changed and for the time being, I have no choice.
I had seven students this month, five of whom had had previous experience on a sit-down forklift or another counterbalance truck, possibly without any previous training, while two had never used any forklift of any kind. With the limited time that was available, the 'experienced' five easily succeeded; the other two were not so fortunate. Both had two runs to see if they could do it after being mentored between each run. One utterly missed and the other slid through successfully.
If I took a one-day astronaut course ...
So, the option was put on the table for both of them to return the following weekend for a one-on-one, in this case two-on-one: a full day of being tutored step-by-step, practicing and, at the end of the day, being tested. I strongly believe, through my experience, that it is possible to guide them through the course with minimal infractions, ensure they know the hydraulic controls without having to look, pull and not push or push and not pull, and finally, complete the task in a timely manner while following all of the safety rules. I could then pass them with restrictions on some of the more difficult tasks that may require supervision from a competent operator until such time as the person felt confident that they could perform that duty on their own.
One fellow couldn't afford to return that weekend, but thought he might be able to come up with the cash the following weekend. He knew his skills were weak. He knew he had made mistakes. He knew that he was nowhere as strong and capable as the others he viewed.
The other had expected to get fully certified on his first time out on the forklift. He was not happy with his partial pass nor was he willing to return for further practical hands-on training and another test.
So I asked him: if I took a one-day astronaut course, would he be prepared to fly with me to the moon the following day? He said no. I asked why not, and his response was "I do not trust your skills to be able to bring me back home alive". EXACTLY! If I deem you competent with only a half-day of practical training, can you guarantee me that you will return home safely at the end of a workday? Can you guarantee me that those working around you in the warehouse will return home safely that day? Will you ensure me that no product will get damaged, and vehicular and property damage will be non-existent?
With these changing times, a half day of practical will not achieve full certification of 99% of the novice students, and until the time can be extended, unfortunately, there will be people who will be very disappointed. COVID-19 is the new reality but proper forklift training is as important as ever.