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What your basic forklift training must cover (& what it shouldn’t)

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Operator training is crucial for those required to use forklift trucks. But how can you be sure that any training given by your provider or in-house instructor is meeting the legal standards?

Your best bet is to ensure your provider follows the Approved Code of Practice for Rider-operated lift trucks — known as L117 — the HSE’s definitive point of reference for forklift training. L117 has special legal status (if it’s proved you did not follow it, a court will find you at fault, unless you can show you have complied with the law in some other way) so if you stick to it, not only will you ensure your operations are compliant with UK law, they’ll be safe and efficient too.

So what does L117 say that your forklift training needs to cover? Well, firstly it states that operator training should always include three stages:

  • Basic training
  • Specific job training
  • Familiarisation training


Let’s take a look at what’s included in each, starting with basic training.

Essential elements of basic training

Basic training is the initial stage, providing operators with the skills and knowledge to use a forklift safely and efficiently.

This training should be carried out away from production and other pressures, and must be conducted within a controlled environment using simulated loads, as the operator will not yet be ready for the demands of the regular working environment.

Basic training can be carried out by an external provider or a qualified in-house instructor and according to L117, must provide the operator with the ability to safely operate the type of lift truck, plus any attachments that they will be required to use in their job.

Training should also ensure that operators are aware of the risks when operating lift trucks, and when carrying out any associated tasks, such as refuelling.

L117 provides some initial criteria for training content, including:

  • The reasons for operator training, associated risks and causes of accidents
  • Operator/employer responsibilities under relevant legislation
  • The main components of a lift truck, load-handling capabilities and capacities
  • Handling attachments
  • Controls and how to use them
  • Predetermined positions of forks/attachments
  • Identification of handling procedures for different load types, and assessment of weight and centres against truck capacity
  • Factors affecting stability
  • Vehicle loading and unloading
  • Safe use of racking structures and stacking/destacking at various heights
  • Safe truck handling whilst laden and unladen, in forward and reverse, and in different environments
  • Safe parking
  • Where applicable, safety devices and seat restraints
  • Inspection and maintenance tasks appropriate to operators, including pre-shift checks
  • Emergency procedures
  • Key control


A simple way to ensure that your basic training covers all the key elements, and meets the required standard, is to choose a provider that delivers forklift operator/instructor courses accredited by any of the organisations that make up the Accrediting Bodies Association (ABA) for Workplace Transport, such as AITT or RTITB.

Basic courses accredited by ABA members are designed to meet the legal and safety requirements outlined by L117 and give you peace of mind that your training covers all necessary areas to keep you compliant.

So that covers the fundamentals of forklift operation but what about your specific equipment, environment and company procedures?

Additional tailored training
Aspects of training tailored to the company, job role and environment do not need to form part of a basic training course. They fall under the two remaining elements of training explained in L117:

  • Specific job training: this provides the operator with a clear understanding of how to use the particular lift truck that they will eventually be operating in their workplace, and is carried out off the job.
  • Familiarisation training: this takes place on the job, where the operator can apply what they have learnt to normal working conditions in the context of their day-to-day tasks.

We’ll look into these in more detail next time.

So, as we’ve seen, sticking to the guidance set out in L117 will ensure you’re meeting the required standards of training. A stress-free way to achieve this is to source forklift training accredited by an ABA member company, who will guarantee this as a matter of course.

Basic, AITT-accredited operator training from Mentor covers all of the key criteria set out in L117, and more besides, to ensure your operations stay safe, efficient and compliant. Contact us for more information.

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