Safety First

Danny Maron: It doesn’t always add up

Monday, 14 June 2010 ( #466 )
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.
As professional trainers, we present an agenda of information to each one of our classes. We all have our own layout, topics and manner in which we present the material. And for me, the middle third of my class involves the engineering principles of a forklift. I have three to cover off - the lever principle, the stability triangle, and load centres and capacities.

With usual 8.0am start times, I breeze through the first third of my course, and then, onto the first of two engineering principles. By this time, it is roughly 10.15am. After a break, we will tackle the last engineering principle. I give my participants time for a washroom break, and to grab a coffee or other non-alcoholic drink and some time to stretch their weary legs after sitting for two-plus hours. We are doing great on time, and I figure I should be done with the forklift portion of the course by 12.30, just in time for lunch.

Now, on to the third and last engineering principle, the ever-dreaded load centres and capacities. This is the zenith, the pinacle, the climax of my course - the most difficult portion to comprehend.

"We are now going to discuss load centres and capacities, with the emphasis on LOAD CENTRES! LOAD CENTRES is the topic."

Via PowerPoint, I explain why the standard size pallet is rated at 48", and then off to what a load centre is, which I repeat by me at least eight times while they are reading the board. Do we all know what a load centre is? And all the participants nod positively. Now I go on to explain how and why forklifts are rated with 24" load centers. The intensity is now building as I can feel the stress in the room! I continue on to explain how load centres are derived, and how to determine them. Several examples are provided.

The maths is about to begin! I continue to discuss attachments, including their effect on the capacity of the forklift, and then shower them with a gorgeous detailed pictorial presentation of everything I have just discussed for the past 20 minutes or so. With a glance of my watch, I am at 10.55am, and bang right on schedule. All the talk, along with slides, has been presented leading up to the three easiest of quizes for them to figure out. It is now 11.00am and we are all set to go. First quiz, the easiest of them all, which after getting many "uh-huh, we understand", becomes a nightmare. An expected two-minute exercise is now into its 15th minute, with several totally at a loss as to where to begin. Pressured for time, I work out the details and show them how it is done, again. Onto the second quiz, not much better than the first, and the last quiz, a tricky one, some succeed and others don't.

Now, it's 11.45 and we are half an hour behind schedule, at least. We don't break until the forklift theory is completed, and we have a lot still to do. And once the load centres and capacities have been completed, there's a huge sigh of relief from the class, and we continue onto the next!

My point is that any type of maths, when it comes to forklifts, is not the subject of choice among forklift operators. I understand that we all have various attitudes regarding maths, but the simplest of procedures seem to be difficult for those lacking the skills.

This presents a complex problem because part of being a competent operator involves determining the estimated weight of a particular load, or estimating the capacity in situations that are not so utopian. Determining whether their forklift can acquire a particular load or not is essential for safe forklift operations. Unfortunately, it does involve maths, and as simple as the equations present themselves, this tends to be an extremely difficult process for forklift drivers.

Understanding that a competent forklift operator does not only know how to operate the forklift, its steering and controls, but also understands the capabilities of each forklift, and being able to accomplish both makes for a competent operator. And nothing says that this is an easy process!
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