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.
In the part of the world I am in (North America), there are several regulatory jurisdictions whose requirements include minimum medical fitness specifications for forklift operators. Typically, these requirements revolve around operator trainees being able to demonstrate minimum performance levels relative to eyesight, hearing and possessing the general physical abilities to meet the demands of the job.
I will not go into detail on the politics that requirements such as these can evoke, but I will discuss how they affect us as trainers.
In a nutshell, a trainee's medical fitness is not something that can be evaluated by an equipment trainer. Assessing the physical, non-operational capabilities of trainees is a highly specialised task requiring knowledge, skills and training beyond anything the average forklift trainer could count among his or her qualifications.
So where does that leave us trainers when we have trainees with obvious physical impediments?
Well, in my opinion, it leaves us exactly where we have always been; in charge of assessing their knowledge and operational competencies relative to safe forklift operation - as per our qualifications as trainers. If an operator trainee comes to me with an eye-patch and a limp, it is of no concern to me unless any of these affect their ability to operate the equipment safely. Similarly, if a trainee comes to me with an arthritic neck, I am going to proceed with him or her just like I would with any other trainee. In fact, I have to. I cannot arbitrarily reject anyone for training and/or evaluation because of a perceived or observed disability: to do so would be discriminatory and illegal. However, it is highly unlikely that a trainee with an arthritic neck would successfully complete the program and become a qualified operator - not because of their arthritis, but because they would have been unable to turn their head to check rear clearance before reversing, which is something I absolutely must see consistently before qualifying a trainee as an operator.
To summarise, a forklift operator trainee's medical fitness is both beyond my capabilities to assess and, quite frankly, none of my business. When a trainee shows up to my training program, I assume that the employer has done their due diligence and ensured they are medically fit for the job. From that point on, any conclusions I draw are based solely on performance-related issues that I actually observe. If the person with the eye patch and the limp can show me what I need to see, then they become qualified. It's as simple as that.