Regular refresher training and monitoring key to operational safety

Stuart Taylor -
Safety First
- 14 Mar 2024 ( #1170 )
3 min read
Stuart Taylor is managing director of Mentor FLT Training Limited, the UK’s leading training provider for all types of materials handling equipment and workplace transport.

Thankfully, when it comes to forklifts most reputable employers understand the need for basic novice training for new operators.

Given the size and power of these machines, it’s easy to see why this is a recognised requirement. 

But what’s just as important is ensuring that any good work done in ensuring an operator understands how and why to work safely is not lost as time goes on.

Indeed, this vital instilling of best practice with regular monitoring and refresher training is where many businesses’ operational safety falls down.

Skill fade 

It is human nature that the skills we possess will fade over time if not honed and maintained.

The consequences of this in the case of the operation of materials handling equipment, however, can be severe. If allowed to develop, bad habits and complacency can lead to costly accidents and serious injuries, putting everyone in danger.

Although unsafe operators are a risk to their own safety, with the protection of the truck’s cab and seatbelt they are not the most vulnerable if an accident occurs.

Unsafe operating practice is far more likely to put those around them at risk, whether this is their colleagues, visitors to site or even customers, in the case of premises open to the public. 

Aside from the safety concerns, bad practice can also increase stock, truck and building damage and hinder productivity should operations be disrupted or halted, all of which are detrimental to the profitability of the business. 

Regular refreshers

To combat this ‘skill fade’, it’s vital that operators are consistently reminded of best practice and the need to follow it every single day.

A good place to start is implementing a refresher policy to ensure that operators receive periodic training to reassess their abilities and reinforce good driving habits. 

In the United Kingdom, this is specified in the Approved Code of Practice for Rider Operated Lift Trucks (L117), with retraining/retesting suggested every three to five years, for example.

(If you haven't heard of the Health and Safety Executive’s L117, you are not alone, as research suggests as few as one in 10 managers in the UK are aware of the definitive guide, but familiarising yourself with its contents is a simple way to ensure safety and compliance within your business.)

Implementing a refresher policy

To be truly effective, a business’ refresher policy should be based on a thorough risk assessment of its unique operations.

Every workplace is different and this tailored approach is vital to ensure that operators receive the right frequency of training for the type of work they do.

Once established, the policy should be implemented and reviewed to ensure it is followed consistently by all, and that it does not need to be updated over time.

Some training companies can help employers to manage refresher requirements by holding records and issuing reminders to prompt when required training is due.

Whilst having a suitable refresher policy is key, it is important that businesses supplement this with regular monitoring and supervision as additional training may be required outside of these regular intervals. For instance, if an operator has a near miss, has not used trucks for some time or if their working practices or environment has changed.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that even well-trained and experienced forklift operators need regular reminders to ensure best practice is followed daily and complacency is kept at bay.

By proactively ensuring that safety remains at the forefront of your operators’ minds, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries on your site. 

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