On-site or off-site? Keeping back-up forklift drivers stand-in ready. Incorporating a sense of the overall operation and safety climate. Keeping an eye out for new training, technology and safety trends. You may be doing it right, but maybe you could do better. 

On-site or off-site + on-site

Not all companies offer their own in-house forklift driver training. And even those who do will oftentimes recruit drivers who have learned their trade in other companies. Or through certified driver courses. Still, though those new, already trained and quite possibly very experienced operators may enter your company overqualified, a period of on-site orientation and coaching is advisable

This also applies to self-trained operators who move to another plant. Getting a feel for the layout of the land or maybe a different forklift model may initially cost time and resources, but pays back dividends in safety. And more often than not it provides for an ultimately shorter run-in time towards maximum productivity

The bigger and the safer picture

Driver operation should fit into the overall site operation and driver training should reflect that. This approach makes it easier for drivers to transition to other areas of a site or plant

Likewise the driver training should not only incorporate forklift operator safety but the overall safety norms and culture of the company as a whole.  For newcomers, safety systems may appear cumbersome and hindering when one doesn’t understand the reasoning behind it. 

Therefore the trainer has an extremely important responsibility in pointing out safety features and in creating that first feeling of safety climate among newcomers. 

More is better, when done good

Having more forklift-certified workers on the payroll than you have forklifts is a sensible and fairly standard policy. It reduces production and efficiency disturbances when operators leave, get sick or are otherwise unable to do their certification-required job. 

It’s also a smart policy to put those ‘backup’ drivers in some kind of rotation schedule. This way they can build up experience and familiarity with the equipment and tasks. This results in a smoother, safer and shorter break-in period. Evidently, these backup operators need to take part in every new training or refresher course. 

Repeat, refresh, restore

Gaining experience on a certain model of forklift in a series of daily tasks is a good thing. More experience yields a higher efficiency and productivity. The downside is that experience can breed routine and complacency. A system of regular refresher courses in operational training and safety is an absolute must. 

Less regular, but just as much a must is operator training that accompanies significant changes in the job. Which brings us to the next point. 

Keep up to date

Be informed of any relevant internal changes. Such as: new equipment, production protocols, a reorganised site layout, a new batch of fresh drivers. All elements that may bring up the need for additional training or coaching sessions.  

At the same time, it’s advantageous to look outside for changes. To check on potential new policies of industry governing bodies, new training techniques, new studies, reports, statistics … . 

And eye for maintenance

Last but not least: a forklift that’s well-maintained is a safer forklift. A system of regular supervisory checks should be in place, but it’s considered smart policy to make the drivers a complementary part of that system. Earlier detection of malfunctions or a need for servicing will benefit the safety of everyone involved. 

Obviously, training drivers to use their vehicles correctly will reduce the amount of wear and tear suffered at the hands of inexperienced operating techniques. This makes for a safer, more efficient place to work and helps to reduce any overheads incurred by more costly servicing of your forklifts.

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