Making safety second nature

Wayne Chornohus -
Safety First
- 30 Jun 2016 ( #776 )
2 min read
Wayne Chornohus started repairing forklifts in Canada about 50 years ago and since then has held various managerial positions with independents and dealerships alike. Eventually, he started a unique operator training company, unique in technical depth and accuracy. A decade later, he formally retired and now teaches English in foreign climes and does some technical consulting.
Many work places have large signs regarding safety. Do these signs help the operator to be safe? When an operator comes to work and sees the safety sign, does he or she think, "I'll really focus today while operating and be safe and effective." In reality, the operator has no such thoughts; the operator will operate according to his mood and habits.

How do we address this problem?

The entire safe operation of a forklift program needs to be turned on its head and re-examined. Each and every operator needs to be assessed for emotional stability, proven skill and efficiency. Forklifts should be equipped with a device to measure sudden stops and sudden acceleration.

With such a device, each operator can monitor and learn from their negative habits. The old days of "playing" with a forklift must stop. No more egregious spinning of the drive tyres, no more high-speed 360 degree turns, no more going full speed from forward to reverse.

Operators must be cognisant of the ramifications of treating a forklift as a toy. Management's new challenge is to treat a good operator as an asset and provide training not only on how to use the controls, but also how to approach each job in a positive fashion.

It is well known that many young drivers are risk takers and enjoy taking chances. This too must stop. An Air Force recruiter once told me they like to start training pilots at 19 years old because at this age, they are at their physical peak in reaction times and vision skills. A young pilot is also fearless and has the immortality belief strong within. In industry, our object is safe productivity so we have to articulate what kind of behaviour produces the most appropriate results.

We need a new kind of Operator Trainer, one who understands the pressures and behaviours of each student. It is no longer good enough to teach only what the regulating authority mandates. Management must find effective ways to assess operators for their own self interest. They must be aggressive in outlining safe habits which will in turn produce greater efficiency, profits and cost reduction.

For example, nearly every authority and every manufacturer states that the seat belt must be worn at all times. This is wrong and shows that every manufacturer and regulating authority doesn't understand the three-dimensional aspect of operating a very heavy specialised piece of equipment. In my next column, I will discuss this issue in greater depth. I suggest that every company and operator ask their trainer for his/her opinion on wearing seat belts as well as articulating what the regulations mandate.
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