Because forklifts are used widely across multiple industries, they are often the cause of many workplace accidents and injuries. Whether it’s a forklift accident at a warehouse or a forklift accident at a construction site, these accidents often result in major injuries and fatalities. The unfortunate truth is practically all forklift accidents are 100% preventable.
A proper forklift accident training program is necessary to prevent accidents in the workplace. Most forklift accidents, especially those that occur due to driver error, are caused by the lack of proper training or certification.
The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplaces in this country and requires workers who operate powered industrial trucks (forklifts) to be trained properly. See OSHA regulation 1910.178(l). Click here for the text of the OSHA regulations related to forklift operator training.
Under section 1910.178(l), forklift operators must be trained by competent individuals with sufficient training, knowledge and experience. Also, the training must include formal instruction, hands-on training and an evaluation.
Formal Forklift Instruction
Formal instruction on operating a forklift usually includes a videotape and written material. However, in reality, what usually occurs is an informal training by another individual who has several years of experience operating forklifts. Such training practices are often insufficient. For instance, a forklift operator trainee may be asked to watch a 4 hour video by himself or may get a few handouts about forklift accident safety.
Hands-on training is perhaps the most crucial part of forklift training because it facilitates actual learning. Hands-on training usually includes live demonstrations by the trainer. The forklift operator trainee should engage in practical exercises, i.e., drive a forklift through a designated course, under the direction of the trainer. The problem is that hands-on training is difficult to arrange in many industries. Setting up a safe course requires planning and space. Many employers skimp on the hands-on training aspect of forklift training, thereby increasing the risk of forklift accidents.
Forklift operator trainees are required to be evaluated prior to operating a forklift in an actual workplace. However, many evaluation procedures are insufficient. For instance, instead of requiring an evaluation through a designated course, a trainee may be given a written or verbal test.
Providing Forklift Training to Non-Forklift Operator Workers
Workers injured in forklift accidents are usually the actual operators or bystanders, i.e., someone walking near a forklift who gets struck by the forklift and dragged underneath. Therefore, it is always beneficial for an employer to provide training to non-forklift operators too. This helps other workers become aware of the dangers of forklifts.
By far, the most effective way to train a new forklift operator is through a specific hands-on technique, or coaching. Such coaching incorporates the OSHA requirements, and also takes into account the individual. In addition, trainees are encouraged to observe and analyze safety practices, especially about operating forklifts in general personnel working areas.
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