Are Your Forklift Trainers Up to the Job?

OSHA has strict standards for forklift driver training but says nothing about certifying that the trainers know what they’re doing. How good is the quality of your forklift training program? After you read this, you might just wonder.

The story is a tragic one, made more so by the victim’s youth.

Kevin Hrcka, just 13, was visiting his father at his job in a New York lumberyard. As he waited for his father, the youngster spotted a bright red forklift with the keys in it.

The temptation of the powerful truck was too much for Kevin. He got in, gunned the motor and tore through the yard at high speed. He then tried a turn … too fast and too sharply.

His first turn was his last. The truck tumbled over, and as Kevin tried to jump clear, its 5,000 lb. weight landed squarely on him. He died instantly.

Reading a story like this, most safety managers’ minds would race to these questions: Who let an unauthorized person near this equipment? Why were the keys left in it? Didn’t anyone train the lift’s operators on these things?

Don’t just tell forklift operators what to do. Show them with action footage on DVD in BLR’s Training Solutions Toolkit: Forklift Safety. Read more.

Forklifts are useful, but also dangerous. Some 100 workers lose their lives in forklift accidents each year, with more than 30,000 injured, according to OSHA statistics. It’s for that reason the agency mandated forklift operator training in 1999. However, according to the logistics industry publication, DC Velocity, the standard they came up with had one remarkable omission.

Nowhere in OSHA’s forklift standard is there any need for a forklift trainer to have any certification. “Anyone can hang out a sign, print up business cards, and call himself (or herself) a forklift trainer,” says the magazine.

OSHA confirms this. “All the standard requires is that the trainer have some practical knowledge to train and evaluate an employee on the safe operation of a truck,” says OSHA official Patrick Kapust. “We have no specific requirements.”

OSHA says it can make no certification standard for trainers without specific congressional authority. DC Velocity points out, however, that other federal agencies do regulate trainers, citing the control the Federal Aviation Administration wields over flight and aircraft maintenance schools as an example.

Where do firms find their forklift trainers? Many depend on personnel sent by the dealer who sold them the lift. Others simply pick an employee who already drives the truck to teach new operators the ropes. Still others have an outside trainer start their program, and then utilize its first graduates to train others.

BLR’s Training Solutions Toolkit: Forklift Safety on DVD comes to you satisfaction assured! Click for details.

However you find your trainers, legal experts make one important point: The trainer does not have prime liability if a students go on to make a mistake that maims or kills. Although private attorneys may sue the trainer, OSHA will go after the employer. “We have no jurisdiction over the trainer,” says Kapust. “Employers have a duty to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards, and that’s who OSHA issues citations to.”

Lesson to be learned: Don’t treat the selection of your forklift trainers casually. And make sure the teaching materials they use are the best available, so they function as a valuable backstop to your trainer’s expertise, both on forklifts and on ability to teach.

We’ll give you some valuable forklift safety tips, and tell you about just one such set of materials in tomorrow’s Safety Daily Advisor.