Training To Succeed: aerial platform operator training

15 April 2008

Brad Boehler of Skyjack says proper aerial platform operator training needs to include both theoretical and practical sessions, and it can't be done in under two hours with 20 trainees in the class.

Training is simple. For users of aerial work platforms, proper training will enable operators to return safely to their families at the end of the day. Period.

Notice that I said enable, and not ensure. The only person that can ensure safe operation of an aerial platform is the operator, and to achieve this goal, he or she must diligently apply the training they have received. This application of appropriate knowledge would eliminate the possibility of most accidents, as this would prompt the user to inspect the lift that they are about to use, and the environment in which they are to use it in.

Ensuring that the machine is in safe working order, and that the application for that particular machine is appropriate, should lead to the prevention of many incidents that we currently see in our industry.

Who is responsible for training? The applicable ANSI standards, summarized, require the following:

The manufacturer is required to provide materials for training.

The dealer is required to offer training, and to provide familiarization upon delivery of a machine.

The owner or user must ensure that anyone they have directed to operate an aerial platform has been trained and familiarized with the aerial platform to be operated, and that the operator is aware of their responsibilities as laid out by the standards.

The operator must have completed general training regarding aerial work platforms and must be familiar with the specific platform to be operated.

Please note that familiarization is not training, but is making a previously trained operator familiar with the control functions and safety devices of the particular aerial platform being delivered. This is certainly a necessity for each operator prior to the operation of an unfamiliar make or model of an aerial platform.

So if familiarization is not training, what is the appropriate training? The same ANSI standards as above require that an operator:

• know the location of operating manuals, warning labels, and their purpose;

• understand that they must have authority to operate the unit;

• conduct a pre–start inspection of the unit and the jobsite;

• understand their responsibilities, rules, regulations and factors accepting stability;

• actual operation of the aerial platform to demonstrate proficiency.

Within our industry, some training being delivered does not meet all these criteria. There are courses that claim to train 20 or more people in an hour or less. I do not believe that a thorough understanding of the operation of an aerial platform can be transferred to an individual in this way.

Other training conveys the theory of operation in an effective manner, but neglects the proficient operation of the unit. Although better than the cursory training, it is still not comprehensive until the trainee physically shows an ability to conduct a pre–start inspection and operate the unit in a safe manner.

This is where quality training sets itself apart, and is why Skyjack has become involved with Aerial Work Platform Training (AWPT). Certainly there are some excellent independent training programs offered by manufacturers and other training entities, but the AWPT program includes accreditation by anindependent industry organization, that ensures that each training center meets stringent minimum standards.

I have heard concerns from some corners that AWPT training is an effort to regulate or license training. I prefer to see the effort as one to hold all training up to a higher standard, and I strongly believe that sometime soon, the applicable regulators are going to wake up and take a more active interest in this training, similar to what has happened with crane training, and likely more relevant, fork truck training. When this day does come – and it will – our industry will be much better positioned if we have a viable training regimen developed by the industry, as opposed to something foisted upon us by the authorities.

I would encourage anyone involved in the aerial work platform industry to become involved with AWPT. It is a not–for–profit organization that operates at the request and on the experience of its members. With each new member, this organization will gain credibility and wisdom. United we can succeed, while individually we are nowhere near as effective.

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