Forklift safety a cliché?

Safety First
- 12 Nov 2015 ( #744 )
3 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.
Do you stifle a yawn when you see the words "forklift safety"? Forty years ago, we rarely even thought about safe operation of a forklift, let alone safety anywhere in the workplace. We finally learned of the terrible cost of workplace accidents (are you bored yet?) and made positive strides through legislation and awareness.

Paying lip service to the topic is a common problem today amongst management and workers alike (now are you bored?) We have had some success in protecting health and enhancing profits through education and have proved the benefits of training employees working in a forklift-populated environment.

Where do we go now and how do we get there?

Now is the time to reassess the motivation for safe forklift operation and awareness. Up until now, we have used fear as the main component and, for management, we have promoted profit as a rationale.

We have to find the thinkers among us to find ways to convince (bludgeon) those in our industry to continue to enhance the mantra of forklift safety.

Sex (That word woke you up!) is used to sell a variety of products but, try as I might, I can't find a way to use it in our quest.

Money? Yes! Now there's a way we can continue pushing awareness for our operators and managers. Start a program where a bonus is paid every month to operators who are accident-free. Reward local managers with a bonus for every accident reported every month (yes, that's what I said). Just a couple of ideas.

I have searched through the forklift manufacturers' web sites as well as those of many training companies and it is absolutely stunning how mundane and tedious every single one is. How can we or YOU rejuvenate interest in safety?
1. You'll get better results when you stop letting fear call the shots.
2. You'll get better results when you start being creative.
3. You'll get better results when you put together a better plan.
4. You'll get better results when you understand what is important to other people.
5. You'll get better results when you believe what you're doing is worth it.

The secret to getting better results is simply to adapt. To learn. To grow.

Many years ago, when I was in the training business, I visited a lumber company to sell them my company's training program. After I explained how our course was thorough and would result in better profits, he told me he would never pay that much to certify his operators. He hired a very attractive young lady (sex sells) who had never driven a forklift or even knew the properties of propane at half my price (money talks). Didn't matter; complying with the regulations was that manager's goal. Managers with this kind of shallow mindset are our enemies.

Unfortunately, we have no protection from ignorance.

I think there are many ideas to help us make being safe a positive challenge - as well as being interesting. When I was a manager of a forklift dealership, I managed by consensus because some of the best ideas came from people on the shop floor.

Does anybody have some good ideas on promoting a continuing interest in safety excellence? Let me know care of and I'll pass on the word.
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