Training day: OSHA advocates formalized telescopic forklift training

By John Wyatt12 March 2008

Arxcis offers three types of training: on-site, prepared presentation kits that the customer can use

Arxcis offers three types of training: on-site, prepared presentation kits that the customer can use to conduct their own course, and the online course

Does the telescopic forklift training need a formalized training course? The industry says “absolutely” and OSHA requires it. John Wyatt reports

Proper training on telescopic handlers works from the top and moves down: manufacturers conduct their respective Train the Trainer course, and these trainers then go out and teach their staff and customers. OSHA deems in 29 CFR §1910.178 Subpart (l): “The employer shall ensure that each...operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation specified ...” (The phrase “industrial truck” here refers to Class I through VII forklifts, the last class encompassing rough terrain forklifts and telescopic booms.)

Within 1910.178 (l), OSHA says the training program must entail both formal instruction and practical training. Formal instruction is the classroom session where lectures, discussion, interactive studies and written tests/exams should be conducted. The practical time is the actual operation of equipment and needs to be overviewed by the training instructor(s).

The Train the Trainer programs follow this model of instruction and most manufacturers offer this type of training. When OSHA recognized the lack of a formal training program back in the late '80s and finally implemented its guidelines in 1910.178 in 1998, AEM provided a training program that was developed specifically to comply with the requirements of OSHA and ANSI/ITSDF.

Train the trainer

“Genie Industries provides a single course covering Class VII Rough Terrain Forklifts. A single operator card is given to the operator that designates their qualification to operate the Class 7 forklift only,” says Genie's Product Manager Luke Webber. Genie's training program complies with OSHA and ANSI/ITSDF guidelines.

“In addition to training them how to be a trainer, we also put them through the course,” says Lance Henrickson, Gehl's product safety engineer. “They get the same operator certificate that they will eventually be granting to people they train. We give them an 8x10 certificate they could frame if they wanted to or a card.” Attendees receive a kit that includes five operator handbooks, operator training handbooks, five certificates and five wallet cards from Gehl.

Henrickson says that Gehl machines, across model lines, are similar. So, those attendees of its Train the Trainer course should be familiar with several of the company's handlers. He states however, that the controls on different manufacturers' models are not uniform. “If you got trained through our course and jumped on a different manufacturer's model, there are differences in the controls. So, even though an operator is trained and experienced on our machine, he or she is still required by the regulations ... to be familiar with the way the controls work [on other machines],” he says.

All operators should be provided operator training, says Dan Blondeau, product manager with Pettibone. “Under OSHA rules, the employer is responsible for providing the operator with the proper training. Upon the proper classroom and field training an individual is issued a card designating that they have successfully completed training according to OSHA Rule 29CFR1910.178 (l).” The training program Pettibone uses is provided by the AEM. (The AEM does have a training program, although it does not do the training but provides the materials for employers and employees).

Michael Walters, a safety trainer with Cat dealer NMC (formerly Nebraska Machinery Center Co.) in Omaha, NE, attended a JLG Train the Trainer course in Las Vegas and is responsible for teaching several of the dealer's staff, which obviously includes its sales personnel and field techs, in addition to those customers that the company rents to. In his area, there are several ethanol plants so NMC, which holds a contract renting machines out to these sites, are required to teach the construction workers there.

“We go over the OSHA regulations and then over basics, how to read the load charts,” says Walters, who reports that the majority of operators that are using the machines don't know how to read load charts.

“We also talk about the work site assessment which should happen prior to starting up the machines,” says Walters. This includes a job site assessment, check controls and service equipment, the review of any work place hazards, such as avoiding power lines, and proper procedures for when the job site closes at the end of the day, such as making sure pallets are off the forklift and that the boom is lowered.

Different methods

Arxcis offers a different approach to training. The company designs online training courses and customizable training kits on CD for equipment owners, professional trainers and safety equipment distributors. As of late fall, it has introduced a Web-based online safety training program for rough terrain forklift operators, in addition to its existing programs for cranes and aerial work platforms which is part of the Hard Hat Series. One of the company's founders, Myron Lee (see ALH September/October 2007, page 40) explains the company's approach to training.

“We do the training at the company site; or we have the company materials which we produce and put on a CD that gives a trainer everything he needs to do his own class. The CD includes all the regulations, the PowerPoint presentations, student manuals that they can print over and over again, accident profiles,” says Lee.

“We offer the basic training classes according to the OSHA regulations where we train the individual,” says Lee. Arxcis offers three types of training: onsite, prepared presentation kits that the customer can use to conduct their own course, and the online course.

He does stress that although he believes the online training course is an effective tool for safety training, there is no substitute for hands-on methods and this procedure must be done with equipment, not a computer.

“Operators are required to be evaluated on each type of forklift they will be authorized to use. We give written and practical tests on each type of lift truck for each operator,” says Alicia Lemke, owner and senior consultant with Complete Safety Concepts, based out of Milwaukee, WI. Its Training Your Trainer classes also cover all types and applications of lift trucks. The program talks of the required topics these new trainers will be required to discuss, examples of how these topics apply to various situations, and is open for questions and discussions about each attendee's unique work place.

“I have felt for a long time that telehandlers, as well as other rough terrain equipment, need specific formal operator training courses,” says Lemke. “There isn't a job classification for rough terrain trucks like there are for front end loaders or cranes – most anyone will hop on it and use it. Current training programs available seriously lack in the topic of telehandlers, truck mounted lifts, and other such rough terrain units. Additional specific training is necessary for achieving any level of responsible safety for these types of equipment.”

Load chart issues

Pennsylvania-based Modern Equipment & Sales are kept busy training its customers.

“I develop and work with training programs for customer and our in-house personnel for rough terrain forklifts and sometimes aerial work platforms,” says Glenn DeCray, Safety and Training Instructor with Modern Equipment. Modern's classroom portion of the training is “about three and half hours.” The program covers daily inspection, job site inspection, as well as load charts and dynamic stability. “Operator's don't have the whole concept of the stability of the forklift, so we go over that whole system of what you're sitting on,” he says.

Like Walters, DeCray says in his opinion that 75% of operators do not know how to read load charts. If that sounds like a high percentage, it is still believable: when asked what common types of accidents are that happen on rough terrain forklifts, the common response is tip-overs. This is often the result of a failure to understand load charts.

Understanding load charts are important, of course, and partly because of the big differences between vertical mast forklifts and forward reach telehandlers, not least in the location of the center of gravity. In the case of forward reach models, for example, the presence of a large counterweight at the rear of the machine can actually make it less stable when it is operating in the carry position without a load. There is sometimes a misconception that operators can zip around the job site at speeds of up to 20 mph when not carrying a load.

Unlike crane operators, for example, rough terrain forklift operators are not “certified” per se. So, given the risk of operating this machinery without the proper knowledge, should end users be officially certified as operators?

“We certify trainees as qualified operators of Class VII rough terrain forklifts,” says Genie's Webber. “The distinction may just be semantics, but a certificate of completion may also be used as proof of operator certification depending on what is written on the certificates. In some cases, a certificate of completion is based solely on a formal classroom training program with no demonstration of proficiency on the forklift. In this particular situation the trainee is not considered a qualified operator until they have demonstrated their proficiency to safely operate a powered industrial truck in the presence of, and to the satisfaction of, a qualified trainer.”

Like the attendees of the Train the Trainer program, end users are issued with certificates of completion. It is required that all employers have proof of its staff attending these sessions. Everyone that conducts safety training has a log of who has attended its program.

The Train the Trainer course is valid for a five-year period of time; beyond that, those trainers need to return for further training. The reasoning is because after this stretch of time, so much changes within the machines and technology, as well as the periodic regulation changes and personal protective equipment.

For end users, a re-evaluation is required a minimum every three years and may require retraining under these conditions. However, should an operator be involved in a near miss or accident, he is mandated per OSHA to return for training.

Safety makes sense

Ultimately, whether it's a manufacturer, dealer, rental yard or a contractor renting the equipment, all have a responsibility to properly train staff. Safety training is available at what seems a reasonable cost (Arxcis, as an example, offers discounted rates as the classroom attendee size from one company grows). But regardless of price, if all would crunch the numbers of what it costs to properly train users against the cost of an accident (health care, equipment damage, lawsuits, etc.) the choice should be an obvious one: train your people.

“I have felt for a long time that telehandlers, as well as other rough terrain equipment, need specific formal operator training courses.”

Alicia Lemke, of Complete Safety Concepts.

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