Create A Safe Working Environment

Training is key to preventing accidents.


If a new hire has gone through forklift training and the trainer's guts tell him that the person wouldn't make a good operator, he has a responsibility to "flunk" the trainee or perhaps get them assigned to a different piece of equipment--say an electric pallet jack instead of a forklift. The bottom line is that trainers must learn to trust their instinct.

"You need to feel 100 percent confident that the people you are training can be turned loose in the work environment," says Toyota's Coito. "If you're not confident, don't do it."

Coito has her own special gauge she uses to measure her level of comfort with trainees. She thinks about her 10 year-old child and wonders if she would feel safe having a particular operator driving in the warehouse around her child. "Is he honking his horn? Is he driving at a safe speed? If he could potentially drive around your 10 year-old, put him to work."

Build A Training Team

Many companies can only afford to designate one person as the company forklift trainer. That can be a problem if the designee has other functions to perform and can barely find the time to schedule training for new hires, or retraining for those whose certificates are about to expire--never mind setting up the classes and scheduling people.

"OSHA requires that there's some record keeping of the training that's taking place. There should be a designated individual to maintain those records," says Greg Mason, general manager, products & training for Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp., Richmond, VA. "Without that how can you prove anything was done?"

Should OSHA inspectors decide to pay the company a visit and records are in disarray, tremendous fines could result.

This is why building a training team may be the most strategic solution. Some of the experts suggest finding the most experienced forklift person on the warehouse floor--someone who is involved in the daily operation of forklifts--and assigning them the hands-on portion of the training.

"It may be that an HR person leads the class, but then she brings in a production person from each area to explain the best way to handle their pallets and containers, or their merchandise as it comes in-and-out of the plant," explains Wayne Wilde, director of customer training and technical publications for Nissan Forklift Co., Marengo, IL.

Larger companies may need to create an even larger division of labor.

"The HR person puts on the classes and sets up a series of team leaders within the organization, such as the warehouse manager, the shipping and receiving managers and the production manager," says Jeff Ord, Forklift Safety.Com, Boulder City, NY.

Ord says it would be these team leaders that do the evaluations for each of their people on each specific forklift that they will be operating.

"If it's left up to one individual and they have 50 different types of forklifts, plus 200 employees--that's 1,000 evaluations," he says. "You need to spread it out." --B.S.

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