The Top 10 Forklift Training Myths

Misunderstandings around forklift operator training can result in employers overtraining staff and overspending their budget.

Here are 10 lift truck training myths for materials handling operations to be aware of.

Myth1 : A forklift operator must hold a valid license

Wrong! There is no such thing as a forklift truck license! However, what is a legal requirement, for compliance with Regulation 9 of PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment regulations 1998) and Approved Code of Practice L117, is ensuring forklift operators have completed the required training, which is broken down into three stages – Basic Operator Training, Specific Job Training, and Familiarisation Training.

On completion of training, a certificate is issued. This is not a legally required document, but it does provide evidence of training for current and future employers. That said, employers should also ensure an Authorisation to Operate is issued before allowing an individual to drive a forklift on their premises. This Authorisation, which may be time limited or valid only for a certain area, is the closest thing you will find to a forklift “licence”. Without it, an operator should never be driving a forklift at their employer’s premises.

Myth 2: A lift truck operator must redo their training from scratch to operate a different type of truck

Operators must be trained on the specific equipment they are required to operate. However, rather than starting their training from the beginning, existing trained operators can gain their qualifications and competence through a lift truck operator conversion course, which is usually much quicker and cost-efficient for employers.

For example, RTITB’s reach truck operator trainingfor a beginner requires 32.5 hours of training, whereas the same qualification taken as conversion training for an already qualified truck operator requires just 13 hours, saving almost two days of potentially lost working hours.

Myth 3: An experienced forklift operator without a formal qualification must start training as a novice

In some cases, a new employee may arrive with experience of operating equipment, but never having completed any formal lift truck training. Experience counts, even for untrained operators! They will need to gain the proper qualifications, but assess their ability first as they may be suited to training designed for existing operators rather than total beginners.

Myth 4: You are legally required to put forklift operators through refresher training every 3 years

Not true! The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines state that operators should take refresher training every 3-5 years, but this may be needed more frequently.

Instead of blindly following guidelines and completing this training routinely every three years, operators should have access to refresher training at the most timely and appropriate occasions. Supervision and assessment can help to determine exactly when this is required to manage spending and comply with regulations.

Myth 5: Agency workers can be authorised to work as long they hold a valid certificate

While it is true that operators must hold a valid certificate to work, they must also be familiar with the specific equipment they are required to operate. It’s vitally important that employers provide specific and familiarisation training before authorising either permanent or agency staff to work. 

Myth 6: You can save time and money by using an in-house maintenance department to inspect your forklift trucks on a regular basis

While it may seem efficient to use an in-house maintenance team to carry out weekly inspections, as opposed to operators carrying out daily forklift checks, this jeopardises legal compliance and safety.

A forklift operator must carry out the required pre-use inspection at the start of every shift to identify any faults or defects.  The maintenance team is there if a fault is found, not to take the place of pre-use checks!

Remember, if an incident occurs due to faulty equipment that has not been correctly checked before use, a hefty fine could be issued. Both the employer and the operator are responsible for ensuring the forklift truck is safe to operate.

Myth 7: A new starter who has lost their forklift certificate must be retrained as a novice

If you have a new starter with no proof of prior training, they don’t necessarily need to undergo full training from novice level.  A qualified instructor should evaluate them thoroughly and then make the call as to the appropriate level of training required. There may be significant savings in time and money by doing so.

Myth 8: If forklift operators are correctly trained, they no longer need supervision

This is totally untrue! Quality forklift training is vital for safety, but good supervision from capable supervisors helps to ensure fewer incidents and improves efficiency.

Myth 9: If operators are trained on the truck type, they don’t need more training to use a larger model

More often than not, when you acquire a new larger counterbalance than your employees are used to, even if it is the same brand, it will be significantly different to operate.  In this instance, the operator should undergo conversion training.  However, novice retraining is not usually needed.

Myth 10: Operators don’t need training on loads above a forklifts’ rated capacity, if they’re already trained on that truck

It is never safe to cut corners, when it comes to forklift capacity. Regardless of whether your staff are trained to operate safely on specific types of truck, you must first ensure they are given the right equipment for the job in hand.  If a lift truck is not sufficiently rated to handle a load, the load must not be moved, even by a trained operator. Employers should never attempt modification of existing trucks with longer forks or added weight unless it is done with the full authorisation of the manufacturer. 

For more information about forklift operator training, please contact the friendly RTITB team.

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