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Forklift Training

Forklift Training – An Investment with a Significant ROI

Forklift training

Smart businesses that have survived and even flourished during the difficult economic times that began in 2008 did it by becoming more productive. The temptation in rough times is to immediately cut costs but cost cutting does nothing to encourage new business or sustainability…increasing productivity does.

While many companies saw employees as a cost, successful organizations looked at every process with an eye of getting more out of the resources they already had including employees.

The Cost of Not Investing in Effective Forklift Training

As a business that operates one or more forklifts, let's first talk about the potential business costs that can occur if an effective operator training program is not in place.

  • Federal and State Regulatory Penalties. OSHA requires that "The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in the OSHA standard.”
    The "OSHA standard" has been adopted word for word by 26 states with 24 having even more stringent requirements. OSHA has made this training requirement a priority item in its compliance audits and companies that cannot prove that each forklift operator is trained to standards are subject to stiff penalties. Failing to provide the training is a "Willful Violation" with penalties ranging from $5,000 to $70,000 per violation (per untrained operator).
  • Higher Workman's' Compensation Insurance Premiums. An untrained or undertrained operator who finds himself in a pinch point or fails to compute capacity correctly on high lifts and injures himself (or someone else) as a result, can have a direct impact on what you pay for workman's compensation or if you can even continue coverage.
    Depending on the severity and frequency of these types of accidents, your experience modification could be raised resulting in significantly higher premiums. In addition, an audit by your insurance underwriters may result in them declining to insure your risk. Either way those are dollars that don't contribute to the productivity or sustainability of the company.
  • Downtime and Higher Labor Costs. Injury accidents that could have been prevented with proper training can put an expensive company asset (the forklift) out of service until the operator returns to work. The alternative is to work the remaining operators longer to pick up the missing operator's workload. That strategy typically comes with the cost of overtime.

Forklift Manufacturers Rely on Effective Operator Training

If you think about it, those new forklifts you have with all the incredible productivity increasing capabilities are really just expensive paperweights without a skilled operator.

Recently manufacturers have placed focus on operator comfort and safety realizing that their forklifts simply can't deliver as promised unless there is a qualified and professional operator at the controls. Today's trucks reduce required hand, arm and neck movements, minimizes vibrations in the operator compartment, make ingress and egress safer and faster, improve visibility and generally removes many of the physical stresses that can fatigue or even injure an operator. The manufacturers know that their product's performance depends largely on the human component that operates it.

With that in mind, most of the major brands now offer forklift training to their clients. It's another revenue stream for them but just as importantly, it's a way to ensure their customers are satisfied with their machines.

So What is This Forklift Training and Where Can You Get It?

The principal objective of forklift training is to encourage a safe working environment. These machines and the work they do are potentially dangerous and, with the exception of mechanical failure, the operator is the key element in minimizing the risk. Understanding the machine and how to correctly perform the tasks assigned is essential.

Safety may be the driving force behind training but a welcome side effect is an increase in operator productivity. A driver who knows his machine and has self confidence in how he or she performs his tasks will have less downtime due to injury, less damage to materials and a higher morale than a poorly trained operator.

Course Training Topics

Training courses can vary in length and topic, but most will cover the same basic areas of forklift operation including:

  • Truck Orientation. A review of the instrument cluster, lever function, brakes, mast components, forks etc.
  • Capacity. Learning how to calculate maximum capacity with the mast fully extended.
  • Pre-Shift Inspection. How to complete the OSHA required daily inspection.
  • Fueling. Fueling procedures for IC trucks including LPG.
  • Recharging. Recharging and battery swapping for electric lift trucks.
  • Operator Maintenance. What an operator can and cannot do in the way of maintenance.
  • Theory. How to pick up, transport, lift and drop a load.
  • Practical Exercise. An opportunity to operate forklifts and master safe, efficient navigation while using specific moves in a variety of scenarios.
  • Safety. Review basic safety subjects like load capacities, pinch points, overhead clearances, and emergency protocols that all operators have to know.

At the end of a course taught by a qualified instructor, operators who have successfully completed the course are awarded a certificate of training. A record of this certificate and the subjects covered in the course needs to be maintained in the operator's personnel file to satisfy OSHA requirements.

Who Offers Qualified Forklift Training?

Ideally the training would take place on site using your equipment and your certified senior driver as the instructor. You can create your own syllabus or use an OSHA compliant course design and AV material available online for about $100 to $200.

If doing the training in-house is not an option, you can outsource the task to an approved third party. How do you find a legitimate training program? You can start with these suggestions:

  • Ask a client or vendor. It's almost certain that your clients and vendors use forklifts in their operations. Ask a few what they do for training and get reviews and costs of their providers.
  • Ask your workman's compensation carrier. The insurance company has a financial interest in your company's safety. They will be happy to recommend sources for training.
  • Check with local junior colleges. Many of these schools are now offering courses that fit the employment opportunities in the community instead of straight academic training.
  • Check with your dealer. If you bought new or used from a dealer, or even if you didn't, check to see if the dealer offers training and if it covers the type of trucks you have.

Getting a referral from a trusted source will probably serve you better than just calling a "training school" you found through a web search.

Whatever approach you take to get your operators trained, make sure that the training has value to your operation. Understand that a general course is not going to qualify an inexperienced driver to climb up on a high capacity or rough terrain truck and start to work.

Training has to be relevant to get the benefits of increased productivity and lower downtime due to accidents. Investing management time (as well as training dollars) in overseeing the organization's program will be paid off in more efficient performance, higher morale and a safer work environment. That's how you maximize the ROI in your training investment.

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