The Importance of Maintaining Operator Training When Changing Lift Truck Power Sources

If you are replacing or updating your counterbalance lift truck fleet and will be changing from electric powered trucks to LPG or diesel (or vice versa), there is one very important consideration that you need to take into account, and it is one that is nearly always ignored until it is too late: you will need to update your operators’ training in order to comply with the law and keep your team safe.

You are probably thinking something like “but my lift truck operators are already trained to operate a counterbalance truck, how different can it be moving from electric to LPG?” So is it a big deal? Laura Nelson, RTITB Managing Director, discusses.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 tell us: [The] Regulations require that: users, supervisors, and managers have received adequate training for the purposes of health and safety including:

  • Training in the methods which may be adopted when using work equipment
  • Any risks which such use may entail
  • Precautions to take

 

Let’s look at each element in turn:

Training in the methods which may be adopted when using work equipment…

There are some key operational differences between differently powered trucks. For example, pre-use inspections, power source replenishment, hydraulic control usage, responsiveness and speed of the truck are all very different in electric, LPG and diesel trucks – consider the importance of placing the truck in neutral and applying the park brake before operating the hydraulics in an electric scenario, now imagine operating a diesel truck where the use of the accelerator enhances the operation of the hydraulics. Training is critical to ensure operators are aware of the different methods required, therefore ensuring you are complying with PUWER.

Any risks which such use may entail…

All types of truck present different risks, but perhaps one of the areas where these differences are most evident is power source replenishment. With an electric truck, many of the key issues relate to battery acid and, of course, the safe use of electricity. Whilst for diesel trucks there are health issues relating to the fumes, skin contact, and the environmental cost of spillages and clean-up. When it comes to LPG, the pressurised nature of the fuel, plus the dangers of cold burns through skin contact are a concern. There are also arguably more manual handling risks associated with refuelling LPG trucks. None of these issues are beyond control but they all illustrate the importance of operator training when switching from one power source to another. You are required to do this training so that all of your operators have a full appreciation of the risks associated with the work equipment they are using in your workplace.

Precautions to take...

Educating your counterbalance operators in the risks alone is not sufficient. Consider: how can the risks be minimised? What are the symptoms that something is wrong? And what steps should be taken in the event that something does go wrong? 

Some of the things electric truck operators need to know include: how the smell of sulphur could indicate a serious fault with battery, in which case the truck should be immediately put out of service; minimum personal protective equipment requirements when working with batteries and steps to take in the event of exposure to acid.

Diesel counterbalance truck operators should be aware that diesel contact with the eyes or skin will require immediate rinsing with clean water; again, which personal protective equipment (PPE) is required and why? Importantly, users of diesel refuelling equipment must know the steps to take in the event of a spillage and reporting procedures.

Amongst other things, LPG counterbalance operators will need training in correct manual handling techniques, along with PPE requirements (neoprene gloves, for example, rather than fabric gloves). And there’s the practical issues like: which way up should the bottle be placed? How to spot LPG leaks, how is the bottle correctly secured to the truck?

The issues covered in this short article are just some of the things that you need to consider when switching truck power types. Operator training will nearly always be needed in order to remain legally compliant. But perhaps more important, is the need for your operators to be aware of the differences so that they can keep themselves and their colleagues safe. This moral obligation will often supersede the legal demands for all responsible employers.

How much training and how long the training should be is something that RTITB is happy to help you with. We can provide you with detailed support and guidance, just give us a call on +44 (0) 1952 520207. Ultimately, your final decision should be based on an assessment of the differences and the levels of risk.

If you are looking for a simple, effective and “worry-free” route to compliance, we would recommend you provide additional training covering the differences and keep a clear record of this training in your lift truck operators’ HR files. This can be very simply achieved by utilising the “pull-out” stand-alone training sessions in RTITB’s new counterbalance lift truck training course. Each session works on its own and can be used to deliver specific skills and knowledge in an effective and time-efficient manner, allowing you to deliver highly relevant training without re-covering ground that is unnecessary to your scenario and operator experience.  The RTITB counterbalance course material is available to purchase online.

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