In the demanding world of logistics and warehouse management, the ability to operate heavy machinery like forklifts often emerges as a critical necessity. A frequently asked question that surfaces in the hiring process, or when considering employee skills development, is, "Will the company train operators to drive forklifts?"
The answer can vary greatly, contingent on several factors, such as the organization's policies, resources, safety standards, and the specific requirements of the job role. This article aims to delve into these factors, elucidate the potential benefits of providing such training, and explore the impact it may have on productivity, workplace safety, and overall business operations.
If forklift operators are presently working for an employer, it is the sole responsibility of the company to supply the necessary training to all of its workers operating powered industrial trucks.
This requirement is stipulated in the current OSHA 29 CFR 1910.178. Specifically here are the provisions:
- 1910.178(l)(1)(i) - The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in this paragraph (l).
- 1910.178(l)(1)(ii) - Prior to permitting an employee to operate a powered industrial truck (except for training purposes), the employer shall ensure that each operator has successfully completed the training required by this paragraph (l), except as permitted by paragraph (l)(5).
For more information of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.178, see this page.
However, if the operators have gone through training that addresses truck-related and work-related topics, and if those topics are appropriate for the trucks and work condition, the operators may not be required to take those topics after they have been assessed and found to be competent to operate the truck.
Getting the training is no longer an option, it is a top priority. If you are a beginner or seasoned driver, you need such training to get employed or promoted for the job. Operators who have completed the training can definitely make a big difference.
Why Forklift Training is Crucial
The importance of training forklift operators cannot be overstated. This specialized skillset is not just a matter of boosting productivity and efficiency, but it is fundamentally about ensuring a safe working environment.
A. Importance of Trained Forklift Operators for Safety
Safety is the foremost concern when operating heavy machinery like forklifts. Without proper training, operators can inadvertently put themselves and their colleagues in danger.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift accidents account for a significant number of injuries and fatalities each year. Properly trained operators are more aware of safety protocols and can handle equipment responsibly, drastically reducing the risk of accidents and enhancing the safety of the entire workforce.
B. Impact on Efficiency and Productivity
Trained forklift operators can considerably enhance a company's efficiency and productivity. Well-trained operators understand the best practices for operating and maneuvering these machines, leading to faster loading and unloading, more efficient material handling, and smoother operations overall.
Furthermore, trained operators are more likely to keep the machinery in good condition, reducing downtime for repairs and maintenance. They are also better prepared to respond to unforeseen circumstances or malfunctions, preventing unnecessary delays.
C. Reducing Equipment Damage and Maintenance Costs
Investing in operator training can result in significant savings in the long run. Forklifts are costly pieces of equipment, and their repair and maintenance can be expensive. Untrained operators are more likely to misuse the equipment or ignore early warning signs of mechanical issues, leading to more frequent breakdowns and higher repair costs.
In contrast, trained operators can prevent many common issues through proper operation and early detection of potential problems. Therefore, the upfront cost of providing operator training can pay for itself many times over by preventing equipment damage and reducing maintenance costs.
Ways the Company Can Train their Operators
This is perhaps the best method in delivering the training. In this onsite method, the trainer can modify the curriculum to suit with the current workplace condition and behaviors of the operators.
The company can either hire an external trainer or designate someone from the organization who has the capacity to delivery such training.
When hiring an external trainer, there are a number of training schools the company can contact to arrange an on-site training.
In this website, we have a directory of forklift training schools in every state, just click on the state where you are situated in the menu, there you will see the list.
When designating someone, make sure that person has the experience and training to train forklift operators and perform evaluation. That person can undergo a train-the-trainer course if he doesn’t have the knowledge and experience yet.
The on-site training is best for companies with large number of powered-industrial truck operators who frequently need training every now and then.
When conducting on-site training, the big things to consider are the training venue and materials.
Do you have a relatively small number of operators? If so, off-site training is appropriate. Off-site training involves sending the operators to a training facility such as a trade or technical school. There are a number of these schools in your area. As mentioned, in this website, we have a directory in every state. Choose the state where you are located in.
The small disadvantage of off-site training is there will be work interruption because the operators would not be available during the training duration.
There are a number of online forklift training providers nowadays. The company can opt into this kind of training because of its convenience. In just few hours, the course can be completed.
But let me leave this warning: the online training can only satisfy the formal instruction part of the curriculum; it doesn’t cover the practical training and performance evaluation. Please read 1910.178(l)(2)(ii).
If the company is going to provide this training to its operators, they still have to go through the practical and evaluation. Otherwise, the operators cannot be certified.
Will the Company Issue Licenses?
It is a requirement for the company to certify their operators as proof of successful completion of training and performance evaluation.
This is when the confusion comes in, because the certification given to successful operators is commonly referred to as the “license” since it indicates the name of the operator, dates of the training and evaluation, and the name of the trainer who conducted the training and evaluation.
The employer can opt to issue these licenses to their operators who have completed the training. The company can issue these licenses. They can serve as evidence or proof of certification.
When OSHA inspectors visited the site, they will not look for these licenses, they will dig for training attendance sheets, course delivery evidence and safety programs.
Contents of the Course
As per requirement of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910, all employees under the roof of the company must be certified to drive designated type of forklift trucks.
The employer can develop their own safety program. OSHA did not set the blue print for the course content. It is now the sole duty of the employer to lay out the curriculum. But to guide the employer, the training course must have these prerequisites:
The training must focus on two essential areas: truck-related topics and workplace-specific subjects. There are different types of fork trucks, therefore, the controls and functions are different from each other. The training must tackles the basic controls and operation.
Likewise, the trainer must also explain the workplace issues that affect pose danger to the people around. This is why the best place to conduct the training is in the actual environment itself, the busier it is, the better, because the trainer can give more details about the risk, hazards and dangers in operating in such tight environment.
The course must contain three parts: The formal education (classroom), practical demonstration (hands-on driving) and evaluation. These must be performed by a competent trainer either hired from school or designed by the company.
Although, OSHA did not specify the requirements for the trainer, it is much appropriate to appoint someone who has lots of knowledge and senior in the group.
When to Provide Refresher?
The objective of the refresher is to maintain good habits, ensure operators of safety advocacy, reevaluation of competency, learn new skills when there’s new forklifts, familiarize with safety hazards when operation is in full swing.
There are circumstances when refresher is required:
- If the operator is not familiar with the operation of the truck he is assigned to operate.
- If the operator has been observed operating the truck in an unsafe and dangerous manner.
- If the operator is involved in an incident such as accident or near-miss.
- If the operator has been evaluated and still showing poor performance.
- If the operator hasn’t driven the truck for quite some time.
Every three years is the routine period when employer must give training to their employees.
Factors Influencing Company's Decision to Provide Training
Several factors can influence a company's decision to provide forklift training to its employees. These variables range from established organizational policies to the resources available for training initiatives.
A. Organizational Policies
A company's historical precedence and current policies on providing training often play a significant role in whether or not it will offer forklift training. Companies with a strong commitment to professional development are more likely to provide this type of training. Furthermore, those with a mandate for maintaining a highly skilled workforce may consider such training essential.
B. Resource Availability
The availability of resources is another critical factor. Training programs require an investment of time, money, and expertise. If a company has limited resources or other priorities, it may opt to hire already trained operators instead. However, companies with ample resources might view this as an opportunity to invest in their employees' skill development, thereby enhancing their long-term productivity and loyalty.
C. Safety Standards
A company's adherence to safety standards, both internal and those dictated by external regulatory bodies like OSHA, greatly influences the decision to provide training. Organizations that prioritize safety are more likely to provide extensive training to ensure compliance with safety regulations and to minimize the risk of workplace accidents.
D. Job Role Requirements
Finally, the specific requirements of the job role are an essential consideration. For some positions, operating a forklift may be a peripheral or occasional task, while for others, it might be central to the job. Companies will need to weigh the benefits and costs of training employees for roles where forklift operation is not a primary responsibility. However, for roles where it is integral, the necessity of training becomes clear.
Potential Drawbacks and Challenges of Providing Forklift Training
While forklift training has many advantages, it also comes with certain drawbacks and challenges. It's crucial for companies to take these into account when deciding whether to implement a training program.
A. High Initial Costs for Developing and Implementing a Training Program
One of the most significant hurdles companies face is the high initial cost of developing and implementing a forklift training program. These costs include hiring experienced trainers, procuring or developing training materials, and possibly investing in a dedicated training area or equipment. For smaller companies or those operating on a tight budget, these costs may prove to be a significant barrier.
B. Time Away from Regular Operations and Job Tasks
Training takes time, not only for the trainee but also for the trainers and supervisors involved in the process. The time employees spend in training is time taken away from their regular tasks and responsibilities, which could lead to decreased productivity in the short term. This is especially challenging for smaller businesses or businesses with a high workload where every employee's contribution is crucial for day-to-day operations.
C. Risk of Liability if Training is Not Sufficient or Proper Safety Protocols are Not Followed
Lastly, providing forklift training brings about a certain level of liability. If an accident occurs and it's discovered that the training provided was insufficient or did not properly cover safety protocols, the company could be held liable for damages. This risk makes it crucial for companies to ensure that their training programs are comprehensive, up-to-date, and in compliance with all relevant safety regulations. Inadequate or faulty training could not only lead to accidents but also potential legal ramifications, creating additional financial and reputational costs.
Comparing In-House Training with External Training Providers
- Tailored to company-specific equipment and procedures.
- Can be more flexible with scheduling and adapting content.
- Builds a sense of camaraderie among employees.
- Can address immediate company-specific concerns or issues.
- May lack broader industry perspectives.
- Limited by the company's own resources and expertise.
- Might become repetitive or stagnant over time.
- Could be inconsistent if there's no standard curriculum.
External Training Providers:
- Provides a wider industry perspective.
- Trainers usually have extensive expertise and experience.
- Consistent quality and curriculum.
- Exposure to different techniques and tools not known in-house.
- Might not address company-specific needs.
- Less flexibility in terms of scheduling.
- Can be more expensive.
- Employees might not bond as well with external trainers.
Combining Both Approaches:
Using both in-house and external training providers can create a balanced and comprehensive training experience.
- Depth and Breadth: While in-house training offers deep insights specific to the company, external training provides a broader view of the industry.
- Flexibility and Expertise: Companies can maintain flexibility in training schedules with in-house sessions, but also benefit from the specialized expertise of external trainers.
- Consistency and Variety: Regular in-house training ensures that foundational skills are consistently reinforced. External training, on the other hand, can introduce new techniques, tools, and perspectives.
- Cost-Efficient: Combining methods might allow companies to optimize costs, using in-house training for foundational skills and bringing in external trainers for specialized modules.
By integrating the best of both worlds, companies can ensure their employees receive a holistic training experience that covers both company-specific needs and wider industry standards.
The question, "Will the company train operators to drive forklifts?" is one that does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. As we've seen, various factors such as organizational policies, resource availability, safety standards, and job role requirements significantly influence a company's decision.
Some businesses prefer to hire already trained operators, thereby saving on the cost and time of training. Others provide in-house training, allowing them to tailor the instruction to align with their specific operations and safety protocols. Then there are companies that choose to outsource forklift training to third-party providers, balancing the need for specialized expertise without draining their own resources.
However, regardless of the approach, the importance of forklift training is unequivocal. Not only does it enhance safety in the workplace, but it also improves efficiency, productivity, and can even reduce long-term maintenance costs. Conversely, it is essential to consider potential drawbacks such as high initial costs, time away from regular operations, and risk of liability.
Ultimately, each company must evaluate these factors within the context of their operations and business objectives to determine their stance on forklift training. However, the overarching consensus is that training should not be seen merely as an immediate expense, but rather as an investment in safety, efficiency, and the long-term growth of the company. In such light, the advantages of training often outweigh the short-term challenges, leading to a safer, more productive work environment.