ukwa-roger-williams-2Comment by Roger Williams, chief executive of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association Forklifts colliding with each other – particularly when entering or leaving an aisle – and trucks hitting pedestrians are probably the two most frequent incidents to occur in or around a warehouse or distribution centre. And, while accidents have a wide and varied range of causes, more and more of the incidents that we hear about involve migrant workers who neither speak nor read English.

With this in mind it seems sensible that employers should put all prospective new forklift operators – and this applies equally to British and migrant workers – through a 30 minute practical test before they consider hiring them. This is particularly important if your forklift fleet includes trucks operated by joy stick controls as many truck operators from the former Eastern Bloc are used to working with older truck types and can experience problems when faced with more sophisticated modern forklifts.

Your forklift truck supplier or training provider should also be able to assist with the translation of operator safety codes to improve migrant workers’ understanding of heath and safety issues.

Poorly trained forklift operators and warehouse staff as well as the speed that forklifts are driven around the site drive up accident statistics. In fact, given that most lift truck related accidents are generally the result of operator error, the management and training of drivers is clearly vital if the risk of on-site mishaps is to be minimized.

There are so many benefits to employing forklift truck drivers who are professionally trained. For example, turnaround is quicker and smoother, and accidental damage – to both the truck and the product being stored – is reduced. A sympathetically driven machine also enhances truck reliability and, needless to say, improves general safety throughout the facility where the truck is operational.

Given that most truck operators have realised the significant cost benefits that are achieved by choosing a forklift truck supplier with the service and maintenance credentials and infrastructure required to ensure that truck downtime is kept to a minimum, it is perhaps surprising then that many truck users – both the bigger fleet operators and the smaller one-off buyers – sometimes fail to see the substantial performance benefits that professionally trained operators can bring to their business.

Of course, no one should be allowed to operate a truck without first receiving training but even experienced employees can benefit from refresher training. Refresher training may be required if, for example, the operator is involved in an accident or a near-miss incident or if he or she has been observed operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner. It should also be considered if there have been changes to the workplace that could impact on the safe operation of the truck or, perhaps, if the operator is assigned to use a different type of machine – say a reach truck when before they had operated counterbalanced vehicles.

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