It may seem early to be thinking of the festive season when we're still enjoying the last days of summer, but Mentor, the UK provider of materials handling training, advises that good advance planning is the key to making Christmas a time of maximised profit and efficiency, rather than strained resources and the resulting increase in accidental damage.
"Many companies employ additional temporary staff to cope with the Christmas rush in their warehouses, and statistics show that this can lead to a surge in accidents," says Mentor's Technical Manager, Andy Cartwright.
"A sudden influx of new people, unfamiliar with each other and with the company's practices, and varying greatly in their knowledge and experience, can increase the risk significantly.
"Training them up to the necessary level is essential. For employers, there are advantages to be had – in terms of cost, availability and smooth running – from booking courses well in advance. According to the Approved Code of Practice for Rider-Operated Lift Trucks, employees' experience levels should be established before they are contracted. Training can then be arranged as soon as the this information has been gathered; this way you can ensure that from day one new starters are equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge for the job they are taking on."
Mentor provide a full range of training courses to meet the needs of any situation. With HSE statistics indicating that pedestrians working near fork lift trucks are twice as likely to be injured as operators, Mentor is keen to emphasise the importance of safety awareness training for staff working on foot, as well as the drivers themselves.
"As an employer, you have a strict legal and moral obligation to keep your staff safe – whether they are temporary or permanent – and to ensure that they aren't a danger to each other.
"While training fulfils your duty of care, a high standard of training provision gives your workforce the skills necessary to increase productivity, while reducing the risk of damage to stock and equipment."
Making seasonal arrangements early also allows you to secure the services of the best staff. In the case of fork lift operators, Mentor reminds employers that they must carefully check the validity of their existing certification.
"There is no such thing as a 'fork lift licence' in the UK, but trained operators will have certificates to show what training they have received. It should be possible to check those details with the relevant training provider and accrediting body.
"However relevant their previous training, as a new employer, you must ensure that they are able to handle the particular equipment, workplace conditions and duties involved in their new job safely."
Clearly the training needs of individual businesses and employees vary enormously and Mentor are keen to help employers assess those needs and to tailor their service accordingly.
"Our experience, size and structure mean that we can satisfy the training needs of any type and size of business. We can train on a small scale but we are also able to deliver courses for customers across multiple locations nationwide. While we can help businesses to plan ahead, we are able to offer training 24/7, 365 days a year and always make every effort to accommodate any last-minute requests. We can even train in different languages. Our Polish courses have been particularly popular since their introduction in 2007. If you have particular requirements, just ask."
For more information contact Mentor on 01246 555222 or visit www.mentortraining.co.uk. Further guidance referring specifically to agency workers can be found in the latest edition of the Approved Code of Practice for Rider-Operated Lift Trucks.