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Compliant forklift training requires doing your homework

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I recently received a phone call that really got me thinking. A small customer of ours was getting ready to do some training and their purchasing people were forcing them to use another training supplier. When I probed to find out if we had done something wrong, it was apparent that our performance had nothing to do with the change. The new supplier was offering to do the training in half the time and at half the cost, tough things to pass up when you are a company on a tight budget.

I sent them a list of questions they would want to ask the new supplier so they could ensure it was at least being done properly:

1) Are they planning on visiting your facility prior to the training?
2) Did they survey your site, make recommendations or take pictures to customize their program to your site and specific forklifts?
3) Did they ask about your application and forklift safety issues over the years?

I pretty much knew the answers in advance. Many trainers and training companies feel they don’t need to look over a customer’s site and equipment since they feel their generic program is already sufficient, not to mention it would take time and money to prepare. Unfortunately, they present the same identical training program in lumber yards, steel mills, warehouses and grocery stores without any thought to how the applications and equipment varies. I have seen companies and trainers who have not changed their programs in nearly 20 years; they still use the exact same material for every client, no modification or customization period. It is hard to believe OSHA revised the forklift standard way back in 1998, how time flies! OSHA has made its stance clear, that type of training would be non-compliant; it just doesn’t provide enough of the right information to get the job done correctly.

Years ago, I read an industry article that hit it right on the head. It stated: “Get this straight: a classroom is not a site. A site is a warehouse, distribution center, dock or yard. If you rely on an outside trainer to get your operators up to speed, you had better make sure that trainer understands your environment. That means touring it, observing operations and noting load characteristics. If a trainer does not do those things and you suffer an accident the contracted trainer won’t likely be cited by OSHA but you can, and likely will be. Ultimate responsibility for training and evaluation is always on the end user.”

Written by Brian Colburn of Forklift Training Systems, a leader in forklift safety training and related products. They can be reached at or 614-583-5749.