Safety First

Danny Maron: Idealistic vs Realistic

Tuesday, 29 September 2009 ( #430 )
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.
There are those on this site who tend to post in the Safety, Legislation and Training forum on a regular basis. A select few, whom I admire very much, are our researchers, seeking out the laws that govern safe forklift operation throughout the world. And I believe that they should be commended for that! As a professional trainer, I do things by the book as well. I teach, educate, explain and then convince my students of the proper means of operating their specific classes of forklift. I do not condone breaking the law, nor do I suggest that anyone does. I explain that when an operator cannot see over their tall load, they must turn their torso 180 degrees, face the back of the truck and proceed slowly until they get to their destination. Any law or safety video will emphasise that. And we test them on the same, both theoretically and practically. And they all seem to understand our reasoning, answer the written test correctly and follow suit during the practical test. So, what happens when we leave the premises? I can guarantee you that a vast majority of operators do not follow the procedure when left on their own. The most we can hope for is a glance over the left shoulder, a glance over the right and, while staring through the mast, accelerating in reverse to their destination, with the occasional turn-around to check. I have seen this practice too often. They answer the questions correctly. Follow through on their practical, but as I am exiting the building, they are back to their old approach: reversing without looking in the direction of travel. As instructors, what are we supposed to do? Idealistically, they should do it by the book, but in reality, they don't. Who is going to oversee that the operators are running the forklifts in the correct fashion? The warehouse supervisor(s)? Doubt it, especially when the warehouse can be anything up to 100,000 square feet, and they cannot see everything that is going on, not to mention all the other duties they have to perform. How about the government officials who oversee the laws? I am not counting on them either. So who is left? No-one! Another popular law-breaker is the one where operators are raising their forks on the way to acquire a pallet on a racking unit, although they are to pull up in front of the load, at least put the forklift in neutral if not engage the parking brake, and then proceed to elevate the forks! So how often does that rule get practised? Definitely not often enough! So, we, as instructors, can state the laws and guidelines, and teach them about liabilities and responsibilities. We can possibly threaten them, but would that make any difference? Probably not. And we can go to our researchers, have them find the specific laws relating to the issues, but would that help?? The operators are not going to follow them anyhow. And only if they are involved in an incident and held liable are we likely to see any change in behaviour. So, what is an instructor supposed to do? In my training, I change my hat. I put myself in the shoes of the operators. And although I demand that they look in the direction of travel, and that is the law, I also have to reason with them. After explaining that they must look in the direction of travel, they should always, and continuously, be sounding the horn, beep,beep, beep,beep,beep, alerting others of their presence. That I know they will do. Turning around 180 degrees, I am not so sure of. What am I doing wrong here, if anything at all? I believe that I am just being realistic. They are not going to follow the idealistic rules, so all I can hope for is for them to follow reality, or what is actually practiced in the field. I will never omit the laws, or the correct manner of doing things, but as an instructor, we sometimes have to wear the other hat, and try to find ways to keep everybody safe, even though the operators are not doing it by the book!