Safety First

Danny Maron: Can you train yourselves?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009 ( #435 )
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.
I understand that in many countries around the world, companies have the option of having their own in-house trainer. In some parts, that is illegal. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of having your very own in-house trainer?

To start, depending on the size of the business, number of operators, number of forklifts and turnover, it appears to be a sensible solution to train staff and save the cost of an external training organisation; no need to hire a consultant and pay the fees, and it can be done anytime the company desires. And the person is very familiar with all the obstacles and in-house dangers, specific to that facility.

What are the disadvantages of having an in-house trainer, providing it is legal in your market? Firstly, guarantee me that the person will have the time to conduct the session. Guarantee me that the person will keep up-to-date on all matters pertaining to safe forklift operations. Guarantee me that the individual will be objective, instead of subjective. Guarantee me that this individual will dedicate the time required to professionally handle the tasks, before, during and after training, and guarantee me that the individual chosen to train the staff is never going to leave your company.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to having an inside trainer, but before you jump up and get one of your staff trained to be a trainer, there are some questions you may want to ask yourself:
1 How many operators do you have? If you have a couple of dozen with little turnover, I would stick with the professionals. If you have 300 operators, and they are turning over at an annual rate of 20% or more, then you may be justified in having your very own trainer.
2 How much time will you allot this individual to concentrate on safety training, over and above his/her normal duties? If it's a day a week, maybe you have something going here. If not, and there is no spare time from normal duties to concentrate on and update oneself regarding safety training, maybe an in-house trainer is not for you.
3 Compare the courses doled out by a professional consultant versus an in-house trainer and witness for yourself who can explain in a comprehensive manner the details regarding forklift dynamics and safety to your staff. Is the delivery equally smooth, and are the two comparable in knowledge?
4 Is the in-house trainer objective and, if necessary, is he free to fail anyone he finds not to be 'competent', or is that instructor under pressure from HR to get people 'passed' because they were hired and are needed to perform tasks with the forklifts?
5 And finally, how high up the food chain will your instructor be? For instance, a warehouse manager may leave a short while after being deemed your in-house instructor, and then you have to start the process all over again. Maybe the next person is more thorough than the first, and feels the previous training was inadequate, or even worse, the new instructor doesn't hold the same code of ethics as the first.
6 Maybe the company decides to have a senior member of their team performing all the training, lessening the risk of departure. Can that senior member afford the time away from his desk to prepare, train, and then analyse the performance of each participant and be undisturbed for a set period of time?
7 Can a company risk the inconvenience, embarrassment and costs, both financial and more devastatingly, injury or death, to one of its staff due to improper training, or a missed subject, due to the fact that this appointed individual is a part time trainer?

I am not suggesting that all in-house trainers are poor. I have yet to meet one that I found good. I haven't met them all, but some I have. And I really do not trust their training abilities. All I am saying is that the long term costs, on the one hand, MAY - and I repeat, MAY - appear less expensive, but you get what you pay for, and an in-house trainer is generally free, except for the time taken away from normal duties.

And there's the matter of who is training your trainer? Some trainers are unprofessional and simply rush through the material, assuming participants are already well qualified.

So why am I bringing this up? If you have read my previous columns, my style is based on personal experiences. I do not report statistics. I do not indicate which paragraph in which safety act pertains to some ruling. That's not my style. I prefer telling it from the field, as it truly happens. So, please listen to this.

I visited a client whom I had not heard from for some time. I used to educate all their staff, and I did a fine job doing so. He advised me that he had sent one of his staff out on a TTT. Puzzled, I asked if it had anything to do with my training, and his answer was a simple 'No!' With staff turnover, he believed that it would be cheaper, in the long run, to have their own in-house trainer. Not an issue with me (unless something occurs), and he volunteered some added information. The TTT course offered included various classes of lift trucks, the price was bargain-basement, quite a few individuals were present, and it lasted less than a full day!

I don't know about any of you out there, but I take a full day to train as many as 10 individuals on only one class of lift truck. One day! That is all that is allotted to me. And I take full advantage of that one full day! And here is a training organisation that determines that a group of individuals are competent to educate others in less than a day, and on several different classes of forklifts, to boot!

How does one train an individual to be a trainer for others in one measly day? How does one test the training ability of the participants in all aspects of the materials? How does one teach others how to prepare materials for the course that is to be given, in one day or less, and determine its relativity and professionalism? How does one teach how to analyse driving abilities in one day or less?
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