An article about the importance and necessity of proper forklift training, which emphasizes there are no excuses for supervisors, managers, and employers who don't adhere to operator-related regulations.

Operating a forklift without proper training is hazardous and possibly fatal to operators and/or other workers. This is a statement of fact that should not be breaking news to anyone reading this, particularly those that operate businesses that use forklifts. Most reasonably-minded people would agree with that and move on but I am bitterly disappointed to report that, in my experience at least, it is not the case.

Yes here we are almost twenty years down the road from the implementation of OSHA`s Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training Standard and other equally if not more stringent operator-related regulations across the US and Canada, and there are still many who are unaware, resistant, or worse, indifferent towards them.

As a trainer, I am programmed to be patient, approachable and accommodating. However, in the context of this article I respectfully request your accommodation of my considered opinion on the matter which is: if you operate a business that uses forklifts and are unaware of, resistant to, or indifferent toward operator training regulations in this day and age then you are incompetent, reckless, or criminally negligent. From my perspective, you should relinquish your position to those more capable and invested in creating and maintaining a safe workplace.

From the perspective of many regulatory enforcement officers and consultants I have worked with personally over my career, they would likely take a stance on the matter that goes beyond simple relinquishment of one’s position and skews toward measures that are a lot more punitive. In fact, their reaction to negligent employers often reminds me of a remark a police officer once made to me in relation to drunk drivers. I was graduating from high school and he had come there to give a speech cautioning us grads on the dangers of impaired driving. He said that after all the horrific scenes and tragedies created by impaired drivers that he had witnessed in his time, he had reached the point where he “hated” drunk drivers. In print here it really doesn’t have much effect but if you could have seen the look in his eyes as he spoke the words like I did all those years ago, the effect would be far more impactful and lasting.

Keep in mind, like police officers, regulatory officers investigate fatality scenes that are every bit as horrifying and tragic and I can assure you they have absolutely no sympathy for supervisors, managers, or employers that are not with the program. Likewise, when training I find myself having little if any time for those I encounter that choose to argue and rail against not only safety rules and regulations but it would seem the very concept of doing things safely. It’s just too late in the day to claim ignorance and frankly, I am no longer willing to put forth the effort needed to mount an argument in favor of safety with anyone that would expend an effort to argue against it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I will happily take the time with a would-be operator or forklift trainer to explain the benefits of safety and hopefully provide the motivation to be safe. But as soon as I get a whiff that operators, trainers and or employers think the whole thing is just a big bunch of bulls$&t (their word not mine), they lose me as an ally. To them I say, for the sake of your own safety and everyone around them, don’t do it. To operators that means don’t operate a forklift, to trainers it means don’t take up training as a vocation and to employers it means, well - just don’t.

There are no excuses. It’s time to get with the program, or go away.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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