Companies overspending and threatening compliance with the wrong forklift training

Many companies are overspending on unnecessary forklift operator training, according to the regulatory body for workplace transport training, RTITB.

Speaking at the recent Talent in Logistics Conference 2018, RTITB Managing Director, Laura Nelson, revealed the extent of the problem and advised employers how to avoid this unnecessary expenditure.

"There are a lot of myths about what materials handling training is legally required," says Laura Nelson. "We see businesses that lack understanding of the relevant regulations failing to deliver a compliant level of training, and on the other hand see companies 'over-training' staff or delivering the wrong training entirely. In all these scenarios, companies are not investing their time and money wisely."

At Laura's thought-provoking Talent in Logistics conference session, an interactive quiz tested the knowledge of logistics and training managers and highlighted some of the most common misunderstandings that lead to under and overspending on training.

One 'myth' that Laura highlighted was that refresher lift truck training is required every three years. In fact, although the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines state that refresher training should take place every three to five years, this may be needed more frequently.

"Rather than blindly following guidelines and scheduling this training in on a three-yearly cycle, employers should instead assess when refresher training would be mostly timely and appropriate," states Laura. "For instance, if an employee is returning to work after a lengthy absence, refresher training would be important, and in some fast-changing work environments, we would recommend refresher training annually."

Another common incorrect assumption is that when new equipment is introduced, existing trained operators must repeat training from Basic Training onwards, but this is not the case.

Rather than starting from a novice level, existing trained operators can instead achieve competence and qualifications via conversion training, which is usually must quicker and less costly for employers. For example, RTITB reach truck operator training for a novice requires 32.5 hours of training. The same qualification taken as conversion training for an already qualified counterbalance truck operator requires just 13 hours. Conversion training may cover operating different types of truck, as well as trucks with significantly different capacities.

"The time taken to train is as important to consider as the cost of the training itself. The 19.5-hour difference in this case between novice and conversion training equates to more than two days of potentially lost working hours," says Laura.

Another common myth is that as long as Basic training has been completed, that this is all that is required for legal compliance. However, whether they are permanent or agency staff, Specific Job training and Familiarisation training are also vitally important for safety and to ensure competence for the particular equipment used and specific working environment.

Many managers also do not know what to do in the event of a lost training certificate and may tackle this by enrolling the operator to retrain as a novice and obtain the certificate again. However, the correct course of action is for a qualified instructor to assess the driver and then decide on the appropriate level of training required, novice or otherwise.

On the other side of the scale, some businesses are attempting to take shortcuts around pre-use lift truck checks without realising that they are jeopardising legal compliance and safety.

"Some companies will tell us that pre-use checks aren't necessary in their operation because they use the lift truck engineering or maintenance departments to take care of their lift trucks, but this is definitely not the case," explains Laura. "It is the operators responsibility to make sure the truck is safe before use. Maintenance departments are there to rectify faults that are found, not to remove the need for pre-use checks."

In the event of an incident, foregoing correct pre-use check procedures could result in a hefty fine. Both the employer and the operator have responsibility for ensuring equipment is safe to use, so operators must carry out daily checks and report any fault or defect.

In the session at Talent in Logistics, many attendees were also surprised to learn that there is no such thing as a forklift truck operator license. A certificate providing evidence of training is issued on completion of forklift operator training, but it is not actually a legally required document.

What is a legal requirement, for compliance with Regulation 9 of PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment regulations 1998) and Approved Code of Practice L117, is ensuring forklift operators have completed basic training, specific job training and familiarisation training before issuing authorisation to operate on premises. Conducting the appropriate end of course assessments is also essential, as is ensuring that operators are assessed using up-to-date and correct testing documentation and maintaining a suitable Record of Training.

If an incident occurs, training records help to show that the legally required, procedures to work towards preventing incidents have been followed, through carrying out valid training and refresher training, and this could make a significant difference in the event of a law suit or insurance claim.

"As an accrediting body, RTITB takes forklift safety and training very seriously and speaking at Talent in Logistics provided a useful platform to raise awareness of the worrying lack of knowledge that exists in some lift truck operations," adds Laura. "I hope that his gave employers a lot to think about and provided valuable knowledge to help manage training compliance and costs within their businesses."

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