Training - Not Just For Operators

"Training - Not Just For Operators" is an article pertaining to forklift operator training requirements and bringing them to the forefront at your workplace.

I recently heard from a colleague about a report she had read in the “Job Market” section of the Seattle Times. The report contained some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) attributing the “strong demand” for forklift operator jobs to the fact that employee turnover for such jobs is relatively high as was “characteristic of jobs requiring little or no prior or formal training.”

That kind of information leaves me slack jawed and shaking my head in disbelief at how little is known, much less understood and practiced, with respect to the forklift operator training requirements of OSHA and/or the two dozen or so state OSHA plans that in some instances, exceed the federal mandate…

I realize that I am hyper-aware of regulated training requirements since because I am immersed in them every day of my professional life but for heaven’s sake, it has been over seven years since the feds promulgated CFR29 1910.178(l) and still, contractors, employers, managers, employees and apparently even BLS, have managed to miss it.

I have heard some say that it is the small mom and pop shops that are the most non-compliant because they are not on OSHA’s “list” but you couldn’t prove that by me. In fact, I have had contact with safety people within very large corporations that had no idea there was a federally mandated forklift operator training standard consisting of no less that 13 truck specific topics and 9 workplace specific topics not to mention retraining and refresher training requirements as well as specifics on documentation/certification.

Sadly and inexplicably, these corporations with entire departments staffed by safety professionals dedicated to attaining and maintaining extraordinary levels of safety and compliance, somehow allowed forklift operator training to slip through the cracks. Worse yet, some of these same corporations had even been inspected by OSHA and told me that forklift operator training was not mentioned but that record keeping was beaten to death.

So, bearing in mind that the Seattle Times report was probably written in response to three forklift related deaths that have occurred in Washington State over the past few months, and that the training requirements of OSHA were implemented to address the 120 forklift operator deaths and tens of thousands of related compensable injury claims each year across the country, what is it going to take to bring operator training to forefront anybody?

Obviously, regulation alone is not the answer. Laws and regulation provide little more than the looming threat of prosecution or assessment and although the prospect of going to jail and/or taking a stiff knee to the wallet may strike fear into the hearts of some, it is hardly motivation for safe behavior.

So what is motivation? I guess that depends on who you talk to. For some it’s money, for others it’s the preservation of one’s quality of life or even life itself, and still for others it could be a combination of those things and who knows, some may actually may find motivation within the legal threat implied by regulation.

Regardless of one’s motivation to run their corporation, manage their department or operate their forklift safely, they must be educated on the advantages/disadvantages of safety and compliance first of all. That means that we safety minded people; and I take it that since you are reading this that you are safety minded, must deliver the message. We have to let everybody involved in the operation know what the requirements are and what is in it for them and we have to do it in such a way as to motivated positive behavior not threaten punishment for non compliance. Whatever we do to get the information to the trenches we better do it soon because people are dying and it is painfully obvious that most of those that need to know what we know don’t.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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