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.
If you think materials handling equipment (MHE) training only applies to operators, think again.
To reduce risk as far as possible, you must ensure that everyone working around forklift trucks understands the dangers, from the managers and supervisors who oversee operations to those working around them on foot.
As the ones in the driving seat day in day out, forklift operators are typically the main focus when it comes to reducing risk within businesses using MHE.
They certainly have a vital role to play in site safety and, thankfully, the majority of employers in the United Kingdom now acknowledge the importance of basic operator training.
There is more work to be done to ensure the standard and sufficiency of this training, including more emphasis on accreditation and following the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE’s_ Approved Code of Practice for Rider Operated Lift Trucks (L117) but operator training is widely accepted as a requirement.
But what we must acknowledge is that targeting operators alone will only get you so far. To further reduce risk, we must broaden the scope to include all those working around forklifts day to day, so that everyone can play their part in contributing to a safe working environment.
A wide reach
A core component of a safe site is proactive management from those who oversee forklift use. Even well-trained operators can make mistakes or become complacent over time, so supervision and monitoring is key to maintaining a safe workplace.
To carry this out effectively, managers and supervisors must be able to spot and correct bad practice. But with no requirement for those in a management role to come from an operating background, specialist training is essential for those managing forklift operations, to ensure safety and compliance is upheld.
Though outlined in the UK’s ACOP, many employers still don’t understand that ensuring these skills is a necessity, with 50% of businesses we recently surveyed reporting that their managers had received no formal training, so significant improvements can still be made in this area.
While its fundamental that those with some control over the MHE operation are equipped to ensure its safety, those working alongside also have a part to play, including colleagues on foot, visitors, delivery drivers and more.
With no protective cab and often little to no specific training, they make up the most vulnerable group in this environment, so it’s vital that they are made aware of the risks they face while working alongside these powerful trucks day-to-day.
Unlike basic operator training, forklift awareness courses can provide a concise, impactful look at key safety messages surrounding forklift use, enabling everyone to understand how to keep themselves and others safe around MHE.
This makes them suitable for pedestrians, as well as experienced operators at risk of complacency, emphasising to all parties the need to stay alert and maintain safe distances.
After all, it’s important that everyone working with forklifts in any capacity understands the importance of following safety measures, and the potential consequences if they don’t.
Improving access to vital training
By widening the reach of your MHE training, you can reduce the risk of serious and costly accidents further than before – and the good news is, rolling this out can be simple and cost-effective.
In the UK material handling industry, providers have produced dedicated courses for these audiences, providing them the specific information they need to meet their responsibilities for safety.
And with no requirement for the practical, hands-on training that operators require, there are opportunities to fully utilise flexible e-learning options, to overcome barriers to accessing vital training and bring more information to audiences who need it.
You can also support this with inductions, toolbox talks and the like, to ensure the message stays clear and consistent amongst everyone.
Whatever method is used – be it face to face training or online – broadening the reach to enable wider understanding amongst all those at risk will help your businesses stay safe, compliant and productive.