Proper operator safety training

Danny Maron -
Safety First
- 13 Dec 2012 ( #595 )
4 min read
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.
What do we teach our students? What is the message we are trying to deliver?

We talk about the stability triangle, load centres and capacities, proper operating procedures, load-handling procedures and general safety issues. Ultimately, what we should be teaching is how not to injure or kill any pedestrians, and how not to injure or kill yourself. That is the underlying message, as instructors, we should be teaching our students. I spend five hours every session insisting that if an operator hits a rack, drives the forks through a bay door, hits a wall or drops a load, these issues are between the operator and the company. When one gets injured or killed, whether it be the operator or a pedestrian, the authorities get involved. Whether it is the provincial ministries across Canada, OSHA in the US or the regulating authorities in each country, they really don't care about dropped loads, damaged forklifts or damaged facilities. But they do care about lives, and protecting those lives is what the laws are all about.

When discussing the stability triangle, which ultimately determines the fate of each and every operator, I hammer the message about the operator getting injured or killed. When I discuss the sounding of the horn when visibility is restricted by an outside object, I talk about the importance of not killing any pedestrians. When I talk about not allowing pedestrians to stand or walk under any raised forks, not to stand within three meters of a raised load, sounding the horn when reversing, not driving up to anyone standing in front of a fixed object, and so on, the message is clear: Do not hit anyone with the forklift. If you do not follow the rules, someone is injured or killed, the regulators get involved and someone will be held liable. And I hammer this point across every 10 minutes throughout my sessions.

The analogy I use is that you are watching an exciting sporting event at home, and with all the commotion, you drop a bottle of your favourite drink and it spills on the floor. Don't call 911, they don't care. Pick up the bottle and it falls again and the bottle breaks, don't call 911. However, should a barefooted toddler come running into the room and step on the broken glass, and the glass gets embedded into the child's foot, NOW you call 911. You hit a rack, don't call 911. Drop a load and the load smashes to bits, don't call 911 either. Hit somebody with the forklift and they are lying on the ground bleeding along with broken or crushed bones, now you call 911. Now everyone gets involved.

I am not saying that it is fine to hit objects or drop loads; however, the objects and the loads can always be replaced. Human life cannot. Sure, the companies will not be impressed by the damage that the operators are incurring; however, that is more of an inconvenience than anything else. Hit somebody with a forklift, or get injured or killed yourself and that becomes more than a major inconvenience, not only to the operator, but also to the families and the business. The regulators come, tape off the area, take pictures and measurements, conduct interviews, read the appropriate documentation and determine who was at fault for this incident occurring. Never mind the loss of time, loss of the forklift, loss of use of the warehouse and the time taken throughout the investigative process; this is a major dilemma for the business. And we cannot forget the possible counselling of emotionally affected workers in the warehouse.

No, we simply do not go through the motions, we do not simply show three hours of videos, we do not have them sign in, collect the cheque and disappear within a couple of hours.

Our job as instructors is to make it clear, 50 or 100 times throughout the course, that we do not hit people with the forklift, nor do we injure or kill ourselves (operators). It must be made absolutely clear that hitting a pedestrian is not an option. It is a catastrophe. And this message cannot be delivered by having your students watch hours of movies, attend 10-minute courses; doing group tests or open book tests. This information must be thoroughly implanted in the minds, hearts and souls of each one of the students. And this will be accomplished only by thoroughly teaching your students the engineering principles of the forklift, safety rules, proper operating and load handling procedures, and how we can avoid incidents. I agree, some of the rules are corny, but they do save lives. And that is the business, as instructors, we are in.
Also Read:
Training can reduce risk
Nick Welch
5 minute read
Training can reduce risk Safety First - 14 Feb 2013 (#603) Forklifts are ubiquitous in industry, moving goods and materials in every sector. Unfortunately, as Nick Welch explains, they are involved in about a quarter of all workplace transport accidents.
Investment, Risk and Reward
Rob Vetter
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Investment, Risk and Reward Safety First - 25 Oct 2012 (#588) Rob Vetter argues that we shouldn't gamble on safety.
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