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In many ways, the rules regulating the operation of forklifts in the UK are a lot tougher in the UK than they are here. Drivers there are required to complete a three-stage training regimen before they can be authorized to drive a forklift professionally.
Not only do operators need to pass a basic training course, but they also need to undergo specific job training and familiarization training. If they don’t successfully complete all three, they cannot drive a forklift legally.
Basic Operator Training
The first type of training UK forklift operators must complete is similar to the type of training lift truck drivers in the US typically receive. It includes basic information about how to operate a forklift safely.
This includes practical skills such as how to turn a forklift on and off, how to maneuver through obstacles, and how to operate the hydraulic controls. Drivers also learn the essentials of safe operation, as well as the risks and hazards they will face in the field.
Also covered are pre-use inspections and routine basic maintenance, such as refueling, battery use, and tire care.
Specific Job Training
After completing basic training, UK forklift drivers learn how the skills they have mastered can be applied in context of their actual job. This includes such things as how to use the different attachments they will be using, the layout of the specific machines they will be operating, and the types of conditions they will be working in, such as confined areas, racking systems, and cold storage.
Another topic covered during specific job training are site-specific rules and regulations, such as speed zones, pedestrian areas, traffic flow, and the types of personal protective equipment they must wear at all times while operating their vehicles.
Generally, both basic training and specific job training will be performed somewhere other than the workplace. This is to ensure that the operator can learn in a safe environment away from other people and equipment.
Finally, after a driver has gained experience operating a forklift and an understanding of their specific role within an organization, they are ready for the third phase of forklift training: Familiarization.
This is when the new driver operates his vehicle in the workplace under the close supervision of his boss or trainer. Drivers are introduced to the “live work” environment for the first time, where they apply the skills and knowledge they have gained during the first two stages to real-world scenarios and job tasks.
The trainee typically is given simple tasks at first, but they gradually build in complexity as they gain experience and confidence. Depending on how quickly the operator develops his or her skill, familiarization training can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
A Training Model for the US?
Currently, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires all forklift operators to have some type of training, but its left up to individual companies to determine which type of training and how much each driver should receive.
This three-tiered approach to forklift training provides British forklift operators with a well-rounded education on forklift operation and safety that only enhances the safety and productivity of the workplace. Perhaps the US could consider adopting it as a model for its own forklift training.