The 2 most overlooked elements of forklift training

8th July 2019

Most companies accept the need for basic forklift opeartor training, but a recent survey has revealed that almost one third of respondents failed to deliver the two key follow-up stages: specific job training and familiarisation training.

All three stages are vital, but the latter are often overlooked, even though – without them – operators may not be safe to work on your site and should not be given authorisation to do so.

Not only are these two elements essential for safety reasons, they are also a firm requirement under the Approved Code of Practice for Rider-operated lift trucks — known as L117. As we saw last time, following L117 is vital, due to its special legal status, so by adhering to its guidance, you’ll help ensure you are complying with the law.

So, first things first, what are specific job and familiarisation training, and what’s the difference?

Specific job training
This provides the operator with a clear understanding of how to use the particular forklift truck that they will eventually be operating in their workplace, and is carried out off the job. It will be tailored to the employer’s needs and, where appropriate, includes:

  • the operating principles and controls of the lift truck to be used
  • routine inspection and servicing of that truck
  • use of the lift truck in conditions that the operator will meet at work
  • instruction on site rules
  • training in the work to be carried out
  • safe systems of work

Familiarisation training
This takes place on the job and under close supervision, by someone with appropriate knowledge. This is where the operator can apply what they have learnt to normal working conditions in the context of their day-to-day tasks. It could include:

  • applying the skills already learned in basic and specific job training
  • becoming familiar with the lift truck activities of the employer
  • any other feature of the work which it is not practicable to teach off the job, e.g. site layout or local emergency procedures

Why go beyond ‘basic’?

L117’s requirements aren’t the only reason to ensure your forklift operators complete all three stages of training. Doing so allows you to meet your legal, financial and moral obligations as a company.

Legally, under PUWER 1998, you must provide adequate training for all persons using work equipment – including how it’s used, the risks involved, and the precautions to be taken.

And if you don’t, under the latest sentencing guidelines, the consequences are more serious than ever. Fines for health and safety offences have risen steeply over recent years, with multiple 7-figure fines already imposed this year. And don’t think directors aren’t culpable — disqualification, or even a prison sentence, is a very real possibility in the event that a person is killed in an accident that could have been prevented. Nobody is above responsibility.

Fines aside, the costs of an accident on your business can be huge if operators are not properly trained. Not only should you take into account damage to stock and equipment, but also any disruption and downtime, where this lack of productivity could ultimately affect your bottom line.

But if you provide all three essential elements of training, you can significantly limit this risk. Training encourages staff to be more proactive and to take ownership of the safety of themselves and their colleagues. This can boost morale, as staff will feel safe and valued, and happier staff is often linked to higher productivity. It can also inspire greater loyalty and staff retention, which could prove particularly relevant during the current skills shortage in warehousing.

An investment in safety

Specific job training and familiarisation training shouldn’t be considered a luxury or even optional, they ensure you are meeting your legal requirements. Not completing them means you’ll be at higher risk of accidents, injuries and costly damage, and you’ll lose out on some serious safety, productivity and profitability benefits.

It also means your operators will miss out on the close supervision they need in their first weeks to ensure they’re working safely – which shouldn’t be taken lightly, as statistics show a new starter is more than three times more likely to be injured in the first six months of employment than a long-standing member of staff.

Delivering all three types of training really is in everyone’s best interests. By fully equipping your workforce with the skills, knowledge and confidence to work as safely and efficiently as possible, you’ll ensure your business meets its requirements too – it’s win-win!

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