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.
Power workers. Power pallet jacks. Power walkies. Whatever you want to call them, they all refer to the same type of lift truck. Everyone develops their own name for them, yet they are the most underrated and ignored lift truck of all.
There are many styles of power walkie - low lift walkie, low lift ride-ons (otherwise known as surfers), power riders, walkie reach, walkie stacker and all the other variants. Yet they all have one thing in common, and that is you walk with them, not drive them. Simple to use? Maybe, or maybe not! Will they kill you or anyone else? Only if you are stupid or ignorant enough to back off a loading dock and take the truck down with you.
So, what are we concerned about when it comes to training on these rather simplistic trucks? Well, I suppose that injuries are fairly common, but they are not life-threatening injuries, just nagging injuries. Bruise or break a foot, arm, leg or hand. No big deal unless it is your
foot, arm, leg or hand. And what if it is a bypasser's body part that is at the receiving end? Did they ask for it? Did they come to work that day saying that they want to spend the evening in the hospital? Probably not!
As with all other powered industrial lift trucks, big and small, operator safety training is a requirement in many countries. And one looks at these 4,000 lb. capacity walkies and wonders why. It looks fairly simple, and it is. They are not massive like other forklifts. Everyone used one in high school performing their work in a commercial or retail job during the summer. So, what can be so difficult?
A Hyster P1.3 pallet truck
Well, ask safety trainers. I am sure that many have seen the difficulty people have manoeuvring these little machines up and down the aisles, turning corners and getting stuck in tight areas. Try watching these people attempting to negotiate this wee little truck out of a tight spot, with no assistance from the drive motor, and a near capacity load resting on the forks.
Which brings me to this observation: Why do so many businesses overlook formal training for their staff who are required to use a power walkie of any sort? They are still powered units. The law states that all powered industrial lift trucks require training. So why is this equipment ignored? And even if they provide training, refresher training is seldom contemplated.
To management, these are not killing machines. They look simple enough to operate. The staff who use these types of trucks come and go frequently, so why pay out all the money? Why? Because it's the law! Because you have to! Because if someone gets injured using these trucks, or a pedestrian gets injured, it costs the business money and lost production time. And everyone likes to go home happy at the end of the day.
Avoiding formal training on these types of trucks may save you money in the short term, but may end up costing the business considerably more in the long run. For now, time is on your side. But watch out, everybody runs out of time.