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Forklift Training - The Beginner's Guide

Forklift Training

If you’re interested in having a career as a forklift truck operator, then you’ll need to pass a training course. As a legal requirement in the UK, forklift drivers must have at least basic operator qualifications. Without this, you will be unable to find employment within the forklift truck sector.

Ask yourself, do you have what it takes

to become a forklift driver?

Before enrolling on a forklift truck course for beginners, have you got what it takes to become a forklift driver? Forklift truck drivers are essential to smooth operations in many sectors throughout the UK like warehousing, manufacturing and construction.

To become a forklift driver, you don’t require major academic qualifications. However, you do need to complete an approved training course. There are a certain set of skills which will be beneficial towards your future career as a forklift driver. To see how you match up, take a look at some of the skills needed below:

- Can you concentrate? Being able to concentrate on any task may seem like an easy thing to do, but are you a person who is easily distracted from the job in hand? If so, forklift truck driving is probably not for you. Concentration is one of the most important skills you have to have when in a potentially dangerous working environment.

- Are you disciplined enough? The sectors where forklift trucks are used are renowned for being quite hazardous. As a result, they tend to have high accident and injury rates. Forklift operatives need to have a certain amount of discipline to carry out their duties to the max. This includes things like a full vehicle inspection every time before the truck is used, staying within designated forklift zones at all times and keeping to safe speed limits.

- Can you keep calm under pressure? During peak times and in most working environments, pressure can be an issue. As a forklift driver you must remain calm under pressure. You can achieve this by being organised and prepared enough to change your method of working at a moment’s notice. Try not to get flustered. Continue to operate the machine safely and carefully, no matter how much pressure you’re under.

- Do you have the right awareness? Forklift truck drivers need to be constantly aware of their surroundings. This is essential in keeping yourself, other workers or visitors, safe on site. You must be able to be prepared to respond quickly and avoid any potentially dangerous situations. This could be anything from pedestrians wandering into your path or objects in your way which could knock you off balance.

- Can you work as part of a team? Most jobs require a certain degree of teamwork. As a forklift operator, teamwork is essential. You’ll be working in close proximity with all kinds of people onsite. This will more than likely include other forklift drivers, lorry drivers, loading teams, stock pickers and supervisors. Many of these people rely on your skills to help them get their jobs done so you must be able to work alongside one another to complete the task in hand.

If you think you’ve got the skills needed to work as a forklift truck driver, then the next step is to enrol in a beginner’s training course.

Why training is so important?

Forklifts are very heavy and big pieces of machinery. Their purpose is to lift large loads from one point to another. It’s probably stating the obvious, but if there’s an accident involving a forklift, there is usually a lot of damage caused. This can incur significant losses to the company involved. In the wrong hands, forklifts can be very dangerous. It requires a particular skill to operate a machine safely.

Unfortunately, injuries do occur when forklifts are in operation. Each year around 1,000 workers in the UK are seriously injured or worse in forklift truck accidents. Investigators have found that some accidents have occurred due to wear and tear as well as the irregular maintenance of trucks. Health & Safety experts have, in some cases, also highlighted that drivers have had little or no training or haven’t been enrolled on training courses at all.

Due to the risks involved, any business owner or any responsible warehouse manager shouldn’t let anyone operate a forklift without the necessary training. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without first having any driving lessons. The same principal applies to a forklift truck.

Employers have the responsibility to ensure that employees meet all the requirements needed to operate a forklift truck on their premises. More than ever before, courts are assigning liability to companies and managers who fail to ensure their workers have been trained properly.

Operating a forklift is more complex than most people think. Allowing untrained drivers anywhere near a machine is both unwise and unsafe, so as an employer, don’t do it.

Improving the safety of the workplace

A forklift is a powerful tool and an essential piece of equipment for most companies, both large or small, involved in materials handling. It can lift, transport, and move loads safely as well as save firms time and money.

The use of lifting machinery or forklifts poses numerous hazards to both the operator and bystanders. For employers, before commissioning a forklift on your premises, all risks need to be considered. Each driver of the forklift trucks is required to be certified in order for them to operate the equipment.

Forklift training will improve the overall safety, productivity and efficiency of any workplace. Some of the many benefits of forklift training for beginners include:

An increase in production – a fully trained forklift truck operator is a more productive worker. During a training course the individual will learn to understand the design, capabilities and limitations of a forklift. By the end of the course, this will have a more positive impact on their performance as an operator.

Lower stress levels – recent studies have shown that stress can have a major impact on productivity along with job satisfaction. Forklift truck operators who understand their equipment in detail, as well as potential obstacles and company expectations, tend to cope with stress in the workplace better. They are happier at work too. Forklift beginner training courses discuss and teach the individual how to cope with stress at work.

Do you meet the criteria?

To go on a beginner’s forklift course, you need to be eligible. A beginner’s training course is intended for individuals with little or no driving skills on any kind of truck.

Courses are also designed to offer a better understanding about the equipment itself and how to use it safely within the workplace. Everything is covered comprehensively from theory to practical to ensure that trainees gain sufficient knowledge and confidence when driving forklift trucks.

To be able to legally drive a forklift in the UK

you must meet the following criteria:

• Are over 20 years old • Have passed an eye test

• Have undertaken training until the required level is met

• Have passed a knowledge test

• Have passed a practical test

• Have paid the appropriate fees

When you meet this criteria,

you will then be issued with either:

• A Light Tractor and Mechanical Equipment Licence – the licence is issued if you have been tested in a forklift with an empty weight of no more than 7.5 tonnes. This type of licence lets you operate light mechanical equipment only.

• A Heavy Tractor and Mechanical Equipment Licence – if you have been tested in a forklift with an empty weight of over 7.5 tonnes, you will then be allowed to operate both light and heavy mechanical equipment.

You may only drive a forklift when under the supervision of an instructor who holds a valid licence for the type of vehicle you are driving.

What does forklift training entail?

Novice courses cover everything you need to know about operating a forklift. Points range from practical operational skills to health and safety, general maintenance to theory examinations. A typical beginner’s course usually starts with sessions on safety and regulations. This is aimed at getting learners up to speed with legal, health and safety factors as well as the relevant aspects of being a forklift truck operator.

You’ll also have to learn how to load a forklift safely. An overloaded forklift can be extremely dangerous, so the proper training is vital. Next comes a theory test on everything you have learned. Towards the latter part of the course you will be taught how to operate a forklift and be assessed on this by a professional examiner.

Sounds easy? Don’t underestimate what’s involved in a beginner’s forklift training course. The typical training course curriculum covers an extensive range of topics.

Depending on the standard of the training school,

tuition may include the following:

- Basic introduction into the type of forklift which the course is intended for

- The current and applicable Government legislation (ACOP, HSE, PUWER 98, LOLER, or the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 1989)

- Pre-operational inspection, equipment checklist compliance, discrepancy reporting and post-use inspection

- Manufacturer’s recommended procedure such as maximum load capacity, weight of the truck, attachment of accessories, man basket fork extension etc.

- Video presentations which discuss the safety operations of a forklift truck

- Familiarisation with the controls and operational procedures of the forklift

- Practices concerning the safe use of a forklift in the workplace

- How to start the machine: actual operation that includes moving, steering, halting/stopping of the forklift truck

- The proper approach and how to fetch the load and transport it to a designated area

- Handling loads in pallets and the bulk stacking of heavy loads

- The safe stacking of loaded heights, de-stacking in racks

- The correct practices for placing and retrieving a load to and from the rack - Refuelling if the machine is motorised, changing the tank if the truck is LPG-powered and recharging if the engine is electrical

- Practice driving test to ascertain the trainee’s driving skills

- Theoretical examination, used to measure the delegate’s acquired knowledge

Five challenges for drivers

As part of a beginner’s forklift truck driving course, practical tests are absolutely essential. When enrolling at a professional and reputable training centre, drivers can expect the following five challenges:

1. Load balance – operators of hand pallets and reach trucks don’t usually have to worry about load balance issues in their working environment. This is not the case when handling extremely heavy weights on a forklift. Drivers need to understand the concept of weight distribution and balance. This helps to prevent accidents which could involve cargo being dropped or the actual forklift truck tipping over.

2. Field of vision – due to the forklift design, even when no load is present, vision can be limited. When a driver adds a load, his or her field of vision can be reduced significantly. The operator needs to assess their field of vision fully before using the machine.

3. Sloped surfaces – it’s not unusual for warehouse, manufacturing and industrial workplace environments to have sloping surfaces on which forklifts have to move. Forklift drivers need to learn how to compensate for these surfaces. This can be determined by the weight of the cargo they carry and the counterbalance weights provided to create stability.

4. Operational control – one of the most difficult parts of forklift training is teaching students how to maintain the smooth operational control of the vehicle. Let’s face it, driving a forklift around a warehouse is one thing, but smoothly operating the machine to prevent accidental drops is something entirely different. It takes a lot of experience to master fork control.

5. Pedestrian traffic – the speed involved in driving a forklift should always be taken into consideration. Drivers need to be aware of pedestrian traffic at all times. Forklifts can move quite quickly, and much faster than they can stop. With this in mind, drivers cannot afford to ignore pedestrians anywhere within the workspace environment.

Provided you pass both the theory and practical assessments, you’ll then receive a certificate and become a fully certified forklift driver. At the end of the training course, successful applicants receive a certificate of training and a forklift operator’s ID card. Depending on the accrediting body (CITB, RTITB, ITSSAR etc.) your name will be recorded in the database or registry. Having a nationally recognised certificate will allow you to apply for employment anywhere in the UK.

How long does it take to complete a

beginner’s training course?

For complete beginners, you should expect to spend a working week of five days at a training centre. There’s a lot you need to learn and take on board before becoming fully certified as a forklift truck driver.

Five days is usually enough time to cover all of the topics needed. Sometimes, however, the length of the course depends on the ratio of trainees to an instructor. If it’s only 3:1, with only three trainees in attendance, it will take less time to complete. A ratio of 3:1 is ideal. Each individual will receive the complete focus and attention of the trainer, so do bear this in mind when enrolling.

Some training centres accept a lesser number of applicants. When this is the case (with two people, for example), it should only take four days to complete the course and three days for just one delegate. It’s not recommended to apply to take a beginner’s course at a training school with a very large number of trainees. You won’t get the attention needed and the way you receive the training may be affected due to the high numbers.

How much does forklift truck training cost?

When it comes to forklift training, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” cost. The type of training you receive and the provider you train with are always factors which affect the price. There are lots of forklift truck training centres to choose from in the UK. Centres provide training for all skill levels of forklift drivers, from experienced veterans to refresher courses and absolute beginners.

Needless to say, training centres are not the same, which means the price of a beginner’s course can vary. Here’s a brief guide on how to select the right training centre for you.

o Make sure the training centre is fully accredited or approved by one of these bodies – Lantra, NPORS, ITSSAR, CITB, RTITB or AITT.

o Ask how many trainees the centre can accommodate. As mentioned previously, for a more in-depth training experience, the smaller number of applicants, the better.

o Don’t apply for a course with a centre that claims you can complete the training in a short timescale. Novice or beginner forklift training takes at least 3-5 days to complete.

o Why not find a training centre that offers the possibility of employment after the training is finished? This will also give you more incentive to do well and pass the course first time around.

o Cheaper isn’t always better. Try to stay clear of enrolling on a cheap forklift truck training course for beginners. Although it may be a little more expensive, comprehensive training is the key to success.

o Don’t make a quick decision. Do plenty of research online and get out there by visiting training centres yourself. You’ll get a better insight into what each course entails and the environment in which you will learn.

Many beginners make the mistake of enrolling on the first forklift truck training course they see. Spend some time browsing online for training centre course recommendations from previous trainees who have left comments online.

Advantages of forklift training for

employees and employers

There’s no doubt that forklift training is an advantage both to an employee and to the employer. Forklifts are very powerful pieces of machinery which can lift loads much heavier than their own weight. To prevent risks and hazards, the vehicle should only be handled by a trained operator, otherwise accidents can happen.

Taking a training course to get acquainted with the machine’s safe operational procedures is a must. Here are a few advantages for both employees and employers:

Employers

Forklift training can decrease business operation costs quite dramatically. Having your workers certified to drive forklifts also reduces business insurance outlay while saving on preventative maintenance costs to the machines. Training will boost the morale of your workforce. Enrolling employees on forklift truck beginner’s courses can improve their confidence and make them more proficient in performing their everyday tasks at work. Employee job satisfaction also provides a happier environment to work in.

Employees

If you are a fully trained individual, expect your productivity and work output to be higher. Being trained enables you to correctly manoeuvre the truck at work, transporting loads more efficiently and safely.

Being a certified driver will give you the confidence to handle a forklift skilfully, wherever and whenever needed. There’s less likely to be workplace accidents like mishaps or near misses. This will give those around you peace of mind that they feel safe in your presence when a forklift truck is in use.

The personal benefits of forklift truck certification

There’s no doubt that successfully completing a beginner’s forklift training course can benefit your future career. In today’s ever-changing job market, there is always a shortage of skilled workers which includes qualified forklift operators.

On the whole, employers won’t hire uncertified workers because they don’t want to risk the hazards, reduce productivity and incur fines which come with untrained employees. If you have obtained the relevant forklift truck certification, you’ll appeal to more employers and likely earn more too. As a potential employee, getting a forklift certificate will open the doors to better-paying job opportunities.

A forklift certification and licence prove you can operate forklift trucks which are compliant with UK standards. You can also take your skills and credentials to different jobs. In other words, you have transferrable skills that are highly sought after by major companies across the UK and overseas. With a forklift truck certificate, the world of work is full of potential. Take the bull by the horns and enrol on a beginner's course for forklift truck drivers today. Contact us at Budget Forktrucks for more information.

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