The Health and Safety Executive Guidance on Lift Truck Operator Training clearly states the requirement for a 3-Stage approach to training, however, many employers are unaware of this. Many operators, therefore, are allowed to work in a “live” environment with nothing but Basic Operator Training. As is often the case, the combination of machine operators in control of vehicles they are not fully trained to operate and a fast-paced work environment can lead to catastrophic results. Contrary to popular belief by employers that operators are qualified after passing Basic Operator Training, the fact is it must be followed up by Specific Job and Familiarisation Training before an employer is allowed to authorise an individual to operate machinery in their workplace.
L117 is the UK’s Approved Code of Practice that outlines the standards required to comply with the three stages of operator training and that employers must satisfy. These three stages of operator training are:
1. Basic Training
Basic training imparts the foundation level knowledge, skills, and hazard awareness required to operate any type of machinery and attachments. This training should be delivered by a qualified operator instructor at an accredited training facility to ensure that all legal obligations are met.
In basic operator training, an individual learns the practical skills of operating machinery such as how to use hydraulic controls and simple manoeuvring of pallet trucks. They also gain a basic understanding of the safety principles involved in operating equipment, including the hazards and risks associated with heavy machinery operation.
Other important skills such as basic routine maintenance and refuelling, as well as pre-use inspection are also covered in basic training.
2. Specific Job Training
In stage 2 context is added to the basic skills training, where the operator is introduced to the specific operating principles related to the equipment they will be using with particular focus on the attachments that may be used. Like basic training, specific job training should take place off-site away from production and any work related pressures. The training will be tailored to an employer’s specific needs and may include:
- Instruction on site rules;
- Use of the equipment in the same conditions the operator will experience at work;
- Operating principles and use of the machine’s controls;
- Routine inspection and servicing
- Training in the specific work that will be carried out;
- Instruction on site rules
- Safety systems of operating specific machinery.
This training is vital to give an operator an understanding and working knowledge of the specific equipment that will be used on a daily basis as well as how it should be operated in the workplace.
3. Familiarisation Training
This training should be delivered at the workplace under the close supervision of a person with appropriate experience and knowledge of the equipment that will be used by the operator. Familiarisation training allows the operator to put into practice what has been learnt off-site and includes:
- Applying the skills learned in stages 1 and 2;
- Becoming familiar with operating the equipment in the normal activities of the workplace;
- Training in any other features that are not practicable to learn off-site such as site layout and local emergency procedures.
Basic operator training is important but does not give an operator the skills and knowledge required to do their work as efficiently and safely as possible with the equipment at their disposal in their particular work environment. Neglecting specific job training and familiarisation training will do more harm than good in the long run and could cause a company to fall foul of the law. Missing out on the vital last two stages of operator training means that employers will lose out on enhanced productivity, improved safety, and increased profitability associated with appropriately trained operators. Instead, they will be at risk of higher rates of injury and accidents that lead to costly damage to staff and property.
Going beyond basic training with two additional stages will ensure that operators are able to fully recognise and appreciate the risks and challenges they face at every shift and know how to work as efficiently and safely as possible.