Stuart Taylor is Managing Director of Mentor FLT Training Limited, the UK’s leading provider of training and associated services for all types of materials handling equipment and workplace transport.
Imagine your operation as a tall building, where each safety measure is an individual building block.
Operator training is one of the first foundation blocks, that helps to keep your structure steady.
It’s crucial but, alone, it is not enough.
Training operators to the highest standards will only reduce risk by so much.
So, this requires more blocks: supervision, safe systems of work, etc.
Together these elements all form a well-rounded, robust structure.
Remove one, however, and the structure weakens.
The more blocks that are missing, the more that safety is compromised and the greater the risk of collapse.
After all, accidents are rarely a result of one issue – they are usually caused by a combination of multiple failings.
It’s vital that you ensure all measures are in place to reduce risk as far as possible.
Here, we explore some of these key components and explain how they contribute to a safe, compliant and productive working environment.
1. Operator training
In the UK, the Approved Code of Practice L117 states that operators must receive three levels of training. Basic/novice training will equip operators with the core skills to operate a forklift safely and efficiently, but they must also receive job-specific and familiarisation training to understand the tasks, loads, site layouts and procedures associated with their job.
Around the world, specific training requirements may differ, but it remains essential that operators are qualified and ready to operate the equipment they intend to use before they begin work.
2. Safe Systems of Work
Different aspects of an operation require a defined set of rules.
In the UK, they are commonly known as Safe Systems of Work (SSOW).
They can apply to practices such as safe working distances around forklifts, pedestrian segregation, seatbelt rules and loading/unloading.
Without these systems, employees may be tempted to operate at their own discretion, leading to bad habits and risk-taking.
3. Awareness training for those on foot
On many sites, pedestrians will be working around forklifts, and providing these people with safety awareness training will help them understand the associated dangers and the role they can play in minimising risk.
Engage pedestrians as well as operators through methods such as toolbox talks, interactive courses and clear signage around site to remind them to keep a safe distance.
4. Manager and supervisor training
Operators have a responsibility to work correctly, but managers and supervisors need the knowledge and understanding to spot bad practice and potential hazards so that they can maintain a safe working environment.
5. Monitoring and supervision
Once managers and supervisors are trained and have the underlying forklift safety knowledge, they must be proactive in ensuring best practice is followed day-to-day.
By walking the floor and monitoring operator behaviour, managers will be able to spot skills gaps and can arrange additional training where necessary.
The sum of its parts
Without even one or two of these crucial building blocks, the safety of your operation is weakened significantly. Make sure they’re all in place on your site and, once they are, continually maintain them to ensure that your organisation’s approach to safety remains effective and robust for the long term.