Training can reduce risk

Nick Welch -
Safety First
- 14 Feb 2013 ( #603 )
5 min read
Nick Welch is a regional executive of RTITB, the largest forklift training accrediting body in the UK and Ireland, recognised by the HSE, HSA and HSENI.
The 2010-2011 HSE (Health and Safety Executive) Workplace Transport Finalised Summary illustrates that injuries in transportation and storage are more than three times the rate seen in any other sector. With nine employee deaths, 438 major injuries, 1,204 over-three-day injuries, and nine fatal injuries to members of the public, the inevitable conclusion is that transportation and storage is the riskiest sector for workplace transport, with both the highest number and the highest rates of injury.

The potential impact of any incident can ruin lives and damage businesses. Even those incidents that don't cause injury can seriously impact on the business in terms of damage to forklifts, buildings, fittings, customers' goods and general productivity. Aside from the obvious benefits of effective training and assessment, which come in the form of reduced suffering and financial savings, businesses have a clear obligation, under Health and Safety law, to provide forklift operators with proper training. Individuals who have not completed and passed proper training and testing should never be allowed to operate a forklift.

Operator selection

When selecting operators, consideration should be given to both their mental fitness and their physical fitness. Good levels of fitness are essential if they are to safely operate and control a forklift. As well as their mental and physical ability, thought should also be given to their ability to learn and to maintain their competence as operators. Prospective operators should be reliable and have a responsible attitude to work; they must also be over the minimum school leaving age (16), unless they are to be employed in ports, in which case the minimum operator age is 18.

Medical considerations

For most operators, a level of fitness equivalent to that required for a Group 1 driving licence entitlement (standard driving licence) is appropriate for basic forklift operations. More demanding work, such as working at night or moving highly toxic or explosive material, would be better suited to an individual with the levels of fitness and health required for a Group 2 entitlement (heavy goods vehicle licence holders). More information on fitness requirements for forklift operation can be found in At a Glance: Guide to Current Medical Standards of Fitness to Drive, published by the DVLA's (Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency) Drivers' Medical Unit.

Forklift operators should be free from physical or psychological disabilities that might put at risk their own safety or the safety of others affected by the work they do. This does not mean that people with disabilities must necessarily be excluded from operating forklifts; indeed, it is entirely possible for people with disabilities to develop skills that compensate for their disability and therefore enable them to operate forklifts safely and correctly. Naturally, in these circumstances, it may be necessary to make reasonable adjustments to enable the operator to work the equipment.


Training - What should it include?

Operator training should be largely practical in nature and include three stages:

* Basic training - The basic skills and knowledge required to operate a forklift safely and efficiently.
* Specific job training - Knowledge and understanding of the operating principles and controls of the forklift to be used, and how it will be used in their particular workplace.
* Familiarisation training - Application of what has been learnt, under normal working conditions, on the job

Basic and specific job training, which can be combined, should take place off the job (away from production and other pressures), while familiarisation training must always be done on the job, under close supervision.

Training options

A number of training routes are open to organisations wishing to train their forklift operators. Employees could be trained by an external training organisation at their premises. Alternatively, a suitably trained member of staff from within the company could be tasked with the job of training employees. Finally, a commercial or self-employed instructor could be brought in to train the company's prospective employees on company premises.

Whatever route you choose, successful training depends on the competence of the instructor, so it is essential that a system for ensuring their suitability is put in place. Always ask potential trainers to supply proof that they are qualified to train on the type of truck to be used, along with evidence of their instructional techniques capabilities.

Many forklift training providers operate through voluntary accreditation schemes, such as the National Operator Registration Scheme (NORS) provided by RTITB. While such schemes are not mandatory, they help employers select training organisations or forklift suppliers who offer a good standard of training. The HSE helped to establish the original accreditation schemes, and provides details of accreditation organisations on its website.

Records of training

Training records should be kept for each employee who has successfully completed any stage of forklift training, including conversion and refresher training. The record should identify the operator and what training they have completed. Certificates of Basic Training provide evidence that operators have received relevant training and achieved the required level of operating ability and associated knowledge. Remember, there is no such thing as a 'forklift licence' in the UK, but some accrediting bodies hold a database of operator basic training and are therefore able to verify operators' training status.

Authorisation to operate

After successful completion of the three stages of training, operators should be issued with written authorisation to operate the type of forklift on which they have been trained. Authorisations can be issued on an individual basis, as well being recorded centrally. The authorisation should record the operator's name and forklift details, and must also include any special conditions or operational limits. Never allow anyone to operate forklifts on your premises without authorisation.

Further information and advice regarding operator training or pre-employment assessment and a list of competent bodies in your local area can be provided by any of the accrediting bodies whose details appear on the HSE website. Further useful information and guidance is available via the HSE approved code of practice L117 Rider-Operated s, Operator Training, which is available to download from the HSE website.
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Blog articles provide perspectives and opinions and therefore may contain inaccurate or incomplete information. Forkliftaction Media accepts no responsibility for errors or omissions. If you feel that significant facts are overlooked, or have a different viewpoint on a topic addressed, we invite you to open a conversation in our Discussion Forums.

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