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Sometimes It’s What You Don’t Do That Ends Up Being The Most Important

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

By: David Hoover of Forklift Training Systems

The other day I was thinking about what our largest contribution might be as forklift trainers. Is it the quality we put into our training, is it the recommendations to improve safety or something else? I honestly think that one of our greatest contributions comes at times when we can NOT certify a forklift operator. From watching competitors, I know that many companies will certify operators for a price regardless of qualifications.

While researching a competitor’s training class last year, I witnessed a new operator that had never before been behind the wheel of a forklift. The operator repeatedly told the instructor he had never driven a lift, but with no practice the instructor put him into a final hands on evaluation! The course took only a minute or two to complete, but the operator was so nervous he knocked off part of the shelving on a storage rack. At the end the instructor passed him and told him his card would be sent out by mail. The real problem was that the operator did not have the basic skills to operate the unit, and needed substantial time to practice under supervision, before being evaluated and certified. When I asked the trainer how often operator’s fail he said it was very rare, only few each year. Unfortunately, the trainer had a distorted sense of what competency really means.

Our hands on evaluation sheets carry a notice of what constitutes a passing score and a notice that we have the right not to issue certification to any person regardless of their score. If our name goes on their permit we reserve the right to make the final judgment, regardless of how much the employer wants the person trained or what they paid. I would estimate that around 5-8% of the trainees we work with must be sent back for more supervised practice before being able to certify them on a forklift.

There has always been pressure on trainers to pass their students, whether trainers will admit to it or not. With in-house trainers they could be testing their friends and maybe even their boss, talk about pressure to pass someone! With training suppliers such as forklift dealers, there are many times pressures to pass operators since they are being paid to do so or if they buy allot of forklifts and service. Much like putting a kid in a car before they are ready to drive, or certifying an airline pilot without sufficient practice, certifying forklift operators that are not ready to deal with the coordination, pace and pressure of forklift operations is a real hazard. Not everyone can be a forklift operator; there are people that may never make good operators because of coordination issues, bad attitudes toward safety, or other problems. By identifying these operators and getting them additional training before certifying them, or not certifying them at all, we keep the workplace safer for everyone.

For more information contact David Hoover of Forklift Training Systems at 740/763-4978 or

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