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Two recent court cases illustrate how important it is to properly train forklift operators prior to letting them on the job.
Failure to provide adequate training can have a direct effect on a company’s bottom line, not to mention the tragedy of having a workplace fatality on your premises.
The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration will assign investigators to your workplace if there is a serious worker injury or a fatality.
Providing workers with the proper training they need to safely operate a forklift or other types of heavy machinery is not enough. You also have to be able to prove it in the form of certification or other documentation.
Failure to provide certification can result in fines and other penalties, even civil or criminal prosecution.
Worker Killed Second Day on the Job
A grocery store in Toronto, Canada, learned that lesson the hard way last week after OSHA’s Canadian counterpart determined that a grocery store was liable in the death of an operator of a walk-behind stacker truck.
A Canadian court last week fined the Tuong Phat Supermarket, of North York Ontario, $140,000 in connection with the October 5, 2013, incident that killed the worker. The Canadian Ministry of Labor determined that the employee had been hired the previous day to work at the Toronto grocery warehouse and was not given adequate instruction on how to properly operate the machinery that crushed him to death after it fell over on him.
The supermarket also was charged with failing to report the incident to the agency, which ultimately was notified of the accident by Toronto police. The agency also found that the area where the employee was working was poorly lit, which may have contributed to the accident.
UK Company Fined in Worker Death
In a second incident, the UK’s version of OSHA last week fined a British steel fabrication the equivalent of $787,000 in connection with the death of a worker who was killed after he become trapped under his forklift when it tipped over on him.
That incident occurred March 13, 2013, at a facility owned by Severfield Inc. located at the Dalton Airfield Industrial Estate, near Thirsk, in Yorkshire, UK.
The fine was levied after the Health and Safety Executive found that the steel fabricator failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all of its employees by failing to provide and maintain a system of work for the operation of forklift trucks that was safe and without risks to health.
Proper Training and Certification is Mandatory
Forklifts are used by millions of businesses across the US every day. While these employers are supposed to use only those forklift operators who have completed forklift safety training, there currently is no single, agreed-upon training program that holds all drivers and businesses to the same standard.
Instead, businesses are on their own to develop their own forklift safety training and certification program. Or they can turn to any one of hundreds of unregulated training experts, community colleges, or technical schools who will conduct training sessions either in-person or online — for a price.
These forklift safety consultants typically will take care of written and practical testing, as well as issuing certification documents to employees who successfully complete the course.
As these two businesses learned this week, failure to provide and certify training can have disastrous results, both in terms of human tragedy and to the company’s financials.