A seemingly daunting task can be made easy with the proper information!
With any training program it is important to understand a few key items. With forklift safety training these key items include the types of power industrial trucks you utilize, the location(s) the equipment will be operated in, specific hazards associated with the operations environment, specialty needs if applicable, and documentation. Right up front if you are not comfortable with creating or implementing the safety training program please do yourself a huge favor. Engage a knowledgeable professional to assist in the creation, oversight and implementation.
Power industrial truck (forklifts) are listed in seven classifications
- Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks
- Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks
- Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks
- Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires)
- Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)
- Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors
- Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks
Although you must train to the class of equipment type(s) or forklifts you operate in your operations the basics of your training program remains the same. So once you know your class type(s) the next place to turn is the OSHA website. You need to read the entire OSHA standard 1910.178 that governs forklifts. Why? Because you learn exactly what needs to be in your Formal Plan and there might be a new update to the standard. Please note another standard you need to understand are the ANSI standards. ANSI or American National Standards Institute governs the areas regarding forklifts that OSHA does not cover such as tires, pistons and chains. Yet remember it is OSHA that does the compliance reviews at companies and levies fines for violations. My suggestion would be to completely copy the OSHA standard and maintain it as a record because you need to teach it during your training class so might as well include it in your formal plan.
The next two areas you need to make a decision on are part of managing your program. First is making a decision on the person(s) that will be in charge to oversee your safety training program. Owners & managers are typically those that will provide the oversight but you could engage other resources to provide the classroom & practical training. In fact you could designate a qualified third part to oversee, implement and manage your entire program. Next is to determine the time frame of your program. OSHA allows flexibility to companies here. Your plan can be one, two or up to three years. Meaning once an employee has completed your forklift safety training program, been evaluated and you certify this by documentation the next time they are required to complete the training program again depends on your time frame. Unless of course the operator has an accident or violates safety rules that require disciplinary action. That would be considered remedial training specific to safety violation and company policies.
The next item and one of the most important bits of advice I can convey is to understand that you must have a formal written safety training program if you operate any class of power industrial truck. This is clearly stated in the standard. Formally written means you create your written plan on company letterhead. Your formal written plan will include the type/class of equipment your company operates, any special notes, time frames, and the OSHA standard. I would also suggest you include copies of your training documents such as sign in sheets, evaluation form used, and daily equipment safety checklist.
When it comes to the actual training it is good to use visual aids. There are a ton of these available from a multitude of sources however my suggestion is to acquire and use the most current version supplied by the National Safety Foundation. It is extremely important to know there are two types of “classrooms” when it comes to forklift safety training. The traditional formal classroom and what is known as practical training. OSHA again allows some leeway on the classroom training as far as the environment is concerned. You can do it in an office, warehouse or even off site at a third party if that is your plan. As long as the key components of forklift safety training are covered the length of class & the content are up to you. Practical training or second half of classroom training is just as important and where what is learned in your classroom setting is put to use. Practical training is best performed by doing a group walk through the area the equipment will be operated pointing out hazards, danger zones, go/no go zones, and things specific to your operation. Overhead pipes, low hanging heaters, ramps and dock level operation are just a few items typically covered. Next in practical that is really important is a complete review of all the forklift equipment the trainee’s will be operating. Reviewing how the specific equipment operates, how one is different from other equipment to operated, and if attachments are utilized the specifics on that as well. Both formal classroom and practical training should be documented by a sign in sheet with a date as per your formal plan.
Certification (there is so much confusion on this and I plan another blog piece to clarify) is the final piece of the forklift safety training puzzle. Those that oversee or person assigned by those that oversee will “observe” the operators as they operate the forklift(s) they were trained on to ensure they are able to operate properly and in a safe manner. An evaluation form is completed as part of the documentation process. It is important to do the observations on more than one occasion and to confirm they can operate all the equipment trained on. Some pieces of equipment are far more difficult to operate and honestly there are a few individuals that regardless of training simply do not belong on the equipment. Look we are talking safety and if you struggle with handling one of these machines not only could you injure yourself you might cause a fatality. Once the classrooms and evaluations are complete typically there are two forms supplied in the purchased training kits available. A certificate of completion of the program and this is very important a wallet sized certification card. Both the certificate and the wallet card will list they type of equipment, date of successful completion of the forklift safety training program, expiration date, and be signed by trainer(s) or person that completed the evaluation if not both. The employee must carry this wallet card on their person while operating your equipment at all times. Please note your state may; Massachusetts has a Hoisting license requirement in place (see my other blog), may require additional training and the acquisition of a state license.
So you’ve trained and evaluated your operators guess what? You’re not done yet. Yes there is more. Documentation, documentation and did I say documentation? Not only do you create a formal written plan, document your two types of classroom trainings and evaluation process the amount of documentation & records does not end there. Daily safety inspections of each piece of equipment must be maintained. Best practice is to ensure the equipment has a safety inspection checklist completed by operator at beginning of their shift. If you run three shifts and the equipment is used on each shift you should have three safety inspection sheets each day. Record keeping of these forms by equipment number is best practice and records must be maintained for inspection by OSHA should they request. Same goes for the maintenance records of the equipment.
My suggestion is to create a master training file and individual files for each piece of equipment. Training files for each operator is up to you or you could make copies and maintain them in their HR file. Choice is yours but understand should OSHA visit and requests training or maintenance files you are required to be able to produce them right away. If you don’t and need to “go hunting” you might as well get prepared for the fine because it will come. So go the extra mile and be sure that the equipment is inspected and you have the documentation to prove it. If an issue is noted on the forms be sure to show when and how it was fixed when it happens. If you make it easy for the inspector the chances of a smile and walk away increase. Besides it helps on the operations end to know who’s trained, when and besides having your maintenance documented helps you determine needs in the long run.
I’ve taken a complicated program and laid it out in detail. Not doing a formal forklift safety training program will cost you so don’t delay. Making it simple is the key and doing it now is the smart thing to do. So get to it and remember to have fun with the training.
Safety First Safety Always.