11 September 2018
In their haste to get all hands on deck, many managers rush new forklift operators through the induction process (or skip it entirely), allowing new operators access to MHE before they are fully trained to use it safely.
As a good manager, you know that this increases the risk of an accident, not just for your new operator but for everyone working around them. Accidents involving forklift trucks often have serious consequences for those involved and even when no-one is injured, the damage, delays and disruption caused can be detrimental to your productivity and, ultimately, your bottom line.
So, to reduce the risk, what needs to be done before anyone is allowed to operate a forklift truck on your premises?
1. Assess suitability and previous experience
The best way to confirm operator competence is to check any previous certification or proof of operation and supplement this with an assessment of their current operational skills.
Remember, in the UK, there’s no such thing as a forklift licence. Any operator undergoing formal training should receive a certificate demonstrating that they have successfully completed basic training on the specified category of truck.
And when checking documentation, beware - not all certificates are as valuable as others. Any training provider can issue a certificate but to ensure the training carried out meets the standards set by the HSE you should look for courses accredited by the organisations that make up the Accrediting Bodies Association (ABA), such as AITT or RTITB. If they’ve been trained to this standard but don’t have a copy of their certificate, you can confirm this with the relevant accrediting body.
The next stage is to assess current operational skills. This will help gauge the standard of the operator and determine what training is required before they can safely begin using forklift trucks on your site. This can be carried out by external provider or in-house by a qualified, competent person.
Finally, Approved Code of Practice (L117) advises some additional considerations for selecting potential operators, including minimum age, attitude and fitness to operate. For details, see L117, paragraphs 49 to 54.
2. The Three Elements of Training
It may seem obvious, but you must make sure new operators are fully trained before operating MHE on your premises. It’s not about providing the minimum training required to get them out there working - this ‘shortcut’ can soon lead to delays and disruptions, or worse, when they start work without the appropriate skill level required. Rather, it’s about ensuring that all 3 essential elements of forklift training have been completed, as outlined by the HSE in L117:
“Operator training should always include three stages:
- Basic training: the basic skills and knowledge required to operate a lift truck safely and efficiently.
- Specific job training: knowledge and understanding of the operating principles and controls of the lift truck to be used and how it will be used in their workplace.
- Familiarisation training: applying what has been learnt, under normal working conditions, on the job.
Basic and specific job training, which can be combined, should take place off the job (i.e. away from production and other pressures). Familiarisation training needs to be done on the job, under close supervision.”
3. Written authorisation
The final part that’s needed before anyone can operate forklift trucks on your site is written authorisation from the employer. Only after all relevant training has been delivered and completed should written authorisation ever be given. It should state the operator’s name, the date of authorisation, the types and/or categories of truck and any special considerations — for example, lifting height restrictions. Written authorisation needs to be specific to task to ensure everything stays controlled and within the scope of what was covered during training. No-one without authorisation should be allowed access to forklift trucks on your site.
Once you’ve confirmed via certification, assessment and training, that your new operators are safe to start using MHE, then - and only then - should you give them authorisation to operate forklift trucks on your site.
Next time you’re keen to put a new forklift operator to work, remember, safe workers are not only less likely to cause accidents, they are also proven to be more productive, so once they do join their colleagues, they’ll be able to make a far greater contribution to your operations.