Forklift training key to reducing risk - are you covering the 3 essential stages?

6th January 2022

With e-commerce booming and the January sales now underway, UK warehouses will likely be bolstering their operations to meet consumer demand. During busy periods like these, it’s all hands on deck, with temporary workers often brought in to assist. But in their haste to keep things moving, business must be sure that they don’t skimp on preparing new starters to begin work, as untrained forklift operators put the entire workforce at risk of accidents and serious injuries.

The facts
At the recent Tomorrow’s Warehouse conference, an expert speaker from the HSE highlighted that between 2017 and 2019, there were 5,700 forklift accidents reported under RIDDOR (and estimated that a third more may have gone unreported). They also made clear that untrained personnel make a substantial contribution to accident figures.

In the current climate, as demand grows for warehousing space across the board, more businesses will be looking to recruit MHE operators, and it’s vital that they are trained and safe to start work. Regular refreshers for anyone operating a forklift are a must to maintain good practice but, for new starters, comprehensive training is absolutely crucial, and L117 Approved Code of Practice is very clear in what this should entail.

3 key stages of training
L117 states that there are three elements of forklift training which must be completed before an operator should be allowed to use MHE equipment. Most companies accept the need for the initial basic training, but many fail to deliver the two follow-up stages: specific job training and familiarisation training.

These are essential but often overlooked. In fact, our recent survey revealed that almost one third of respondents’ businesses were not covering all three elements of training.

The three stages should include:

1. Basic training: the basic skills and knowledge required to operate a lift truck safely and efficiently.

2. Specific job training: provides the operator with a clear understanding of how to use the particular lift 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

3. Familiarisation training: 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

As per the industry’s Approved Code of Practice, none of these three stages should be considered optional. L117 outlines standards to be met to ensure you comply with the law and highlights these types of training which must be satisfied by employers.

As a further control measure, only once all three stages of training are complete should operators be issued with authorisation to operate and granted access to your MHE, for their own safety and that of their colleagues around them. By providing the skills and knowledge they need, and restricting forklift access to them alone, you can keep your team safe and ensure that your new starters can become a productive part of your workforce, right away.

If you’re responsible for forklift operations on your site and want more information on the three elements of training, check out our Managing Forklift Operations course, now available in classroom-based, video conferencing or e-learning formats.


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