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Your forklift training FAQs answered

16 January 2023

Safety is paramount when it comes to materials handling operations… but understanding what training is appropriate will not only keep you in line with the law, but it will also offer opportunities to save money. Liam Knight answers your frequently asked questions.

SOME QUESTIONS have a habit of coming up time and time again. Here is just a few.

Is training necessary for operating hand pallet trucks?

As an employer you have a clear responsibility, under PUWER 98, to ensure operators of all types of lift truck are properly trained. According to HSE guidelines: “Operators of types of truck not covered by the ACOP (Approved Code of Practice), including pedestrian-operated trucks, ‘stand-on’ pallet trucks that do not lift materials for stacking, and straddle carriers, will also need training.”

This will not be as comprehensive as for a counterbalance truck, but the crucial point is that employers must meet their legal obligations and ensure that all operators receive adequate training, regardless of the vehicle.

Does an operator need a current license to drive a forklift truck?

There is no such thing as a forklift truck operator’s license. However, after successfully completing a training course the candidate will receive a certificate. 

If you are recruiting a new operator you should treat training documents with some caution as there are plenty of examples of falsified certificates. Check with the relevant training body. If it carries the mark of one of the five national accrediting bodies (of which AITT is one), then it will be able to advise whether the certificate is genuine and what equipment it covers. 

Which brings us onto...

Once trained, can an operator work on any truck?

Trained operators can work on forklifts from different manufacturers and with some variation in capacities. However, if the switch is significantly different – such as moving from a 1000kg capacity electric counterbalance to a 6000kg IC engine model or a reach truck – then they are almost certain to need conversion training. The same would apply if the operator moves to a truck with very different controls, an attachment or when the nature of the work changes significantly.

Carrying out a short risk assessment will help you decide what’s appropriate, but don’t hesitate in seeking professional advice from a reputable training company.

When switching to different equipment, does forklift training need to start from scratch?

The short answer is ‘no’. Skills are transferable and, as indicated above, the operator may be able to switch straight away or undergo a short conversion course – which is significantly shorter than a full course and very much cheaper than starting from scratch.

If you are recruiting a new operator you should treat training documents with some caution as there are plenty of examples of falsified certificates.

Similarly, someone joining your organisation may have experience in operating forklift trucks but no qualifications. An assessment may conclude that they not need to start from scratch but may be able to join a course for existing operators, again saving unnecessary expense.

How often does an operator require refresher training?  

Although HSE is clear on the importance of refresher training, there is no fixed timescale.

It’s important because, over time, even the best operators can get complacent and fall into bad habits. 

Rather than opt for a fixed-period programme, though, there is a strong argument for reassessing operators routinely and focusing refresher training resources on those who need it most. This allows employers the opportunity to identify and address such lapses before they lead to potentially serious accidents. 

Formal re-assessment is likely to be needed where truck operators:

  • have not used trucks for some time
  • are occasional users
  • could have developed unsafe working practices
  • have had an accident or near miss
  • have changed their equipment or environment

The comprehensive L117 document published by HSE (Rider-operated lift trucks - Approved Code of Practice and guidance) contains an ‘example of employer’s training record’ in its appendix which gives details of refresher training.

Can qualified agency workers start straight away?

Research shows that any worker is four times as likely to be involved in an accident in the first month of their employment... which explains why HSE has a specific section on this subject in its L117 document.

As an employer, you owe an agency worker the same duty of care as an employee who has been with you for many years. 

To make sure they are properly prepared for working safely on your premises you need to carry out some basic steps:

  • Check their certificate, when it was issued and for what type of equipment
  • Assess current skill levels to identify whether there is a need for additional training
  • Deliver the three 3 key elements of training: basic, job specific and familiarisation
  • Avoid any misunderstanding by using a system of written authorisation for permission to operate a forklift

What are the three key elements of forklift operator training?

Basic Training – such as that provided by a third-party training provider. This will include an explanation of safety systems and truck stability.

Job Specific Training – identifies on-site hazards and rules; relates to specific truck and loads

Familiarisation Training – supervised practical experience of specific work activities

Does anyone other than operators need training?

Training shouldn’t be limited to operators. Any new starters who will be expected to work alongside forklifts or warehouse trucks should have safety awareness training – so they know what to look out for and can help keep themselves safe. It’s important because pedestrians account for 60% of injuries involving forklifts.

At the same time, the HSW Act makes it clear that supervisor training is now a solid requirement. Whilst not requiring full operator training, supervisors need sufficient training and knowledge to recognise safe and unsafe practices. AITT accredits such courses covering: 

  • carrying out an effective observation and knowing what to look for
  • communicating effectively with operators and line managers
  • recognising unsafe practice and behaviour
  • maintaining and promoting health and safety standards

What is accredited training?

Although accreditation is voluntary, the use by an employer of an accredited training provider (ATP) provides some assurance that the training provided will be to the standard described in L117. It also ensures consistency and continuity by delivering the same training across different sites. Each accrediting body will be able to provide details of appropriately qualified and experienced ATPs along with a description of their assessment criteria.

Liam Knight, managing director, Association of Industrial Truck Trainers (AITT)

For more information, visit www.aitt.co.uk