How long should forklift training take?

24th May 2018

For many managers, staff training means striking a difficult balance. When your forklift operators are in training, they aren’t working, but without the proper training, they aren’t working at their best. For the sake of staff safety, productivity and your budget (not to mention legal compliance), it’s important to ensure your team is spending the right amount of time on training.

But, how can you be sure that you’re following best practice, getting the best value and making the best use of everyone’s time?

Well, once again we can turn to the HSE for guidance. L117 - the Approved Code of Practice for Rider Operated Lift Trucks - focusses on operator training and safe use and offers simple, straightforward advice on the subject.

The three elements of training

Before we can discuss course lengths, it’s important to note that there are three elements of forklift training which must be must be satisfied by employers before an operator is deemed ready to work. The ACOP outlines these as:

  • Basic training: Foundation-level training necessary to operate the type of lift truck and any attachments that will be used. Delivered ‘off the job’ by a qualified in-house instructor or an external provider (look for one who trains to an accredited standard).
  • Specific job training: Delivered ‘off the job’ by the employer and will be tailored to the employer’s needs. Gives operators a working knowledge and understanding of the equipment that they will use day-to-day and how it should be used in the workplace.
  • Familiarisation training: Carried out ‘on the job’ under close supervision. Allows the operator to put into place what has been learnt, in normal conditions.

Course durations

When determining suitable course lengths for forklift operator training, its key that we’re specific about the type of training in question, to avoid confusion. The following guidelines refer to basic training; any job specific and familiarisation will be an additional time investment (but a necessary one to ensure you meet the legal requirements set out in L117).

A course of basic training will typically last between 3 and 5 days, dependent on factors such as equipment type, experience level and delegate numbers. The specific guidance is that the course should last as long as it takes for delegates to meet the requirements of L117’s Appendix 1 and 2: basic training objectives and tests of operator skills. Therefore, more experienced lift truck operators may, understandably, need less training than those with little or no experience.

So that’s basic training covered, but if you stop here, you’ll lose out on significant boosts to efficiency gained during the remaining two elements of training, and your new operators may not yet be ready to work safely alongside their experienced colleagues, who’ll be going at their usual pace. This could mean productivity is slowed, disrupted or even halted completely, should an accident occur. So be sure to allow additional time for job-specific and familiarisation training.

Another requirement to consider is forklift refresher courses, because while new operators need training, it’s vital you don’t presume that experience guarantees competence. Complacent attitudes can soon build up and bad habits develop, meaning even the most experienced operators must be reminded of best practice periodically. Remember, training is an ongoing process so periodic refresher training, typically once every 3 to 5 years is best practice.

Comparing course lengths

When comparing providers, avoid making a beeline for the shortest or cheapest courses to free up your operators or your budget. Weigh up both quality and quantity and make sure your provider ticks all the boxes.

Finding the right training provider can go a long way to alleviating headaches for managers. Don’t talk yourself into a cheaper provider by telling yourself “It’s basically all the same.” In our experience, it certainly isn’t. When comparing quotes, make sure you’re comparing like-for-like and not accepting any corner cutting in exchange for price-cutting. A good start is to find a provider who offers training to an accredited standard, under one of the bodies that make up the Accrediting Bodies Association (ABA).

Remember, if you’re ever unsure of your forklift training requirements, L117 is always a good place to start. Or you can give us a call; we’ll be happy to talk it through.


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