Forklift Driver Safety - by Des Fell of ACCREDITED TRAINING


Forklift safety is a subject which one thinks of as being thrashed to death.

Why then do so many forklift accidents occur?

Before forklift licences became compulsory, companies used to send operators on courses regularly and expect them to improve each time. Management and supervisors also attended seminars to back up what had been taught by the Training Centres.

Now licences are compulsory. All companies want is a licence to allow the operator to operate legally regardless of how he operates.  The main criteria is how much it is going to cost to get him licensed, and in the shortest possible time.

No thought is given to what happens when he returns to work after the training.

When you go for a driving test, you are out on the road and a police officer MIGHT stop you and fine you for doing something wrong. Therefore when we are on the road we sort of behave!

Forklift operators go back to work, often highly enthusiastic about what they have learned, but at the workplace their supervisors pay no attention to whether they are operating correctly of not! Mainly because they do not know what is correct and incorrect, and do not feel it is their job to discipline the operators.

Managers and supervisors should remember that operating a forklift is far more complicated than driving a car. Not only does the operator move forwards and backwards, but also operates in the third dimension as well – up and down. We all know this, but why do we think it is so simple to do!

What’s more he normally operates in very confined spaces and often in appalling conditions of poor lighting, noise, and dirt. Not to even mention those operating in cold rooms at sub-zero temperatures. In addition, there are normally other people around in the warehouse and these are working in very close quarters to the forklift operators.

In cold stores the danger is even greater. Pedestrians and operators   are probably both feeling the effects of the cold which hampers their concentration, and they are working with electric machines which are extremely quiet. Most often these days, the operators are in a closed cab and cannot hear what is going on outside the cab. Often the windows are partially misted which hampers his all round vision. Have you asked your supervisors when they went into the cold room to see the operators working inside? Most tell me they never go in!

Unless proper training of operators and their senior staff is carried out, we will never have a truly high standard of forklift driving in this country.