If it isn’t written down…

Rob Vetter -
Safety First
- 28 Apr 2016 ( #767 )
3 min read
Rob Vetter is technical director and managing partner with the Ives Training Group, in Blaine, WA, USA, a leader in North American mobile equipment training systems since 1981.
Do you remember those corny courtroom TV dramas that always ended up with either the beleaguered witness breaking down on the stand under the intense pressure of the prosecutor ("...alright I did it and I'm glad I did!") or the 'surprise' witness who was mysteriously un-reachable for the entire episode and then arrived like a white knight just in the nick of time to save the day? Corny stuff indeed, but you have to admit the drama made for great entertainment. Unfortunately, in the real world, courtroom and/or litigation procedures are quite tedious and nowhere near as entertaining, especially for the parties involved, although the effects can be just as dramatic.

Make sure your processes are well documented. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK
Make sure your processes are well documented. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK
In relation to legal proceedings involving mobile equipment, I have noticed a very un-dramatic, but damning nonetheless, commonality. It is not always the sole factor in determining the guilt of one or the innocence of another and occasionally is not a factor at all, but based on the case information I have studied, improper and/or non-existent documentation of safety training can mean the difference between triumph and tragedy. The lack of proper documentation -or any documentation at all - muddies the water at best and, at worst, legally speaking, condemns the employer. It appears that in the eyes of the law, the completeness and/or accuracy of training-related documentation is a reflection of the training itself. Similarly, the absence of training-related documentation translates to an absence of the training itself.

This speaks to a very fundamental tenet of training and one that I can tell you comes up early and often during forklift operator 'train the trainer' programs that IVES delivers: If it isn't written down, it didn't happen. It is a very serious matter and can be an extremely bitter pill to swallow if you have to learn it the hard way.

Documentation is an enormously significant component in a successful training program because, for all intents and purposes, it is the training program. It is likely that regulatory authorities conducting general worksite inspections may rely on observation to base their assessment of operator training, but it is a virtual certainty that if a forklift incident causes an investigation, it will move well beyond general observation into deep scrutiny of such things as the trainer's lesson plan, logs, material content, written and practical evaluations and, of course, the qualifications / competence of the trainer. From there, authorities will probably move on to looking into how the training program is implemented and enforced by the employer with respect to practical application(s) and what steps are taken to regularly identify hazards and take corrective action to ensure that the required safety procedures advocated within the training are carried out on an ongoing basis and that those not following safety rules and practices are re-trained or even disciplined.

It can get very ugly in a hurry, but having accurate and complete documentation of all aspects of a training program can alleviate a lot of pressure as it provides the proof that, in spite of the fact that a damage - or injury - producing incident may have occurred, the employer acted responsibly and diligently and, as such, would likely not be perceived asbeing negligent. This would certainly not the case if the appropriate thorough and accurate documentation could not be produced.

IVES recommends that at the very least, the documentation retained by an employer relative to forklift operator training should include:

* The name of the operator.
* The date and location of the training.
* The date and location of the evaluation.
* Evaluation results (written test, practical evaluation).
* The type of equipment addressed/used.
* The name of the trainer and/or evaluator.
* The qualifications of the trainer/evaluator.

The trainer should be able to produce detailed information on the content and duration of each phase of the program and, if possible, general information on the methods employed to ensure the training is understood by the trainees.

In the event of an incident, there is no guarantee that documentation will completely absolve you of any liability, but the lack of it will almost certainly condemn you. In a manner of speaking, proper documentation is the closest thing to a white knight that you have.
Also Read:
These boots were made for walking
Danny Maron
3 minute read
These boots were made for walking Safety First - 26 May 2016 (#771) One of these days these forklifts are gonna walk all over you, warns Danny Maron.
Slow and steady always wins the race
Nick Welch
3 minute read
Slow and steady always wins the race Safety First - 7 Apr 2016 (#764) Materials handling is not a sprint, if you want to do it safely, according to Nick Welch.
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Blog articles provide perspectives and opinions and therefore may contain inaccurate or incomplete information. Forkliftaction Media accepts no responsibility for errors or omissions. If you feel that significant facts are overlooked, or have a different viewpoint on a topic addressed, we invite you to open a conversation in our Discussion Forums.

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