Training vs familiarization

29 July 2008

Being trained to operate a piece of aerial equipment is standard, but what happens when an operator isn't familiar with the technical control functions and safety devices on an aerial?

"There's a difference between training and familiarization," said Tony Groat, Aeiral Work Platform Training's (AWPT) executive vice president, at this year's Scaffold Industry Association's aerial work platform council meeting.

According to ANSI A92.6 standard which was introduced in 1999, "training" consists of the instructions necessary to enable a trainee to become a qualified person regarding the task to be performed, including the recognition of potential hazards. "Familiarization," on the other hand, is the information regarding the control functions and safety devices on a specific aerial platform to be operated by a qualified person.

Groat gave an example of a trained scissor lift operator who was driving at 20 feet in the air. The operator was trained on a machine with these specifications, but is unfamiliar with a machine that has higher capacities. Groat said at this point the operator tried to raise the scissor a few more feet and continue driving, but the safety functions on the lift wouldn't allow the operator to drive the unit when elevated over a certain height. The operator then thought the machine was broken and called an electrician to "fix" the situation. After overriding the machine's safety functions, the operator put the lift 50 feet into the air, started driving and the machine immediately toppled.

"He was a trained operator," Groat said, "but he wasn't familiar with the unit. That's why we need to raise awareness."

To curb instances like this and make more people aware, AWPT, IPAF's North American subsidiary, has released a free technical guidance note that discusses familiarization and training requirements.

According to AWPT, a person must be trained before they can be familiarized. Familiarization then provides limited information that takes about 15 minutes per machine for the operator to go over, including:

- Identifying the weather resistant compartment (for manual storage).

- Confirming required manuals are in place.

- Reviewing control functions.

- Reviewing safety devices on the lift being provided.

AWPT says familiarization should take place upon point of delivery of a unit and that the dealer/rental company has the responsibility to provide familiarization to the receiving party. The receiving party must ensure that operators are properly trained, familiarized and made aware of the requirements of an operator as defined by ANSI prior to authorizing them to operate and aerial lift.

For more information, please see the PDF or visit AWPT's website.

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