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Your guide to forklift refresher training post-lockdown

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At the start of lockdown, the HSE stated that, with justification, any forklift refresher training due on or after 16th March could be extended by 3 months. For those who were early adopters, this grace period will now be expiring, and businesses must take care to catch up on vital training to avoid a potential dip in operating standards.

The importance of regular refresher training

Whether furloughed or utilising the 3-month extension, operators due refresher training during the past few months could be in need of it now more than ever. With every business facing its own challenges during the pandemic – unprecedented peaks, periods of inactivity, new staff, fewer staff, procedural/role changes – your day-to-day operations may seem quite different to the pre-lockdown norm.

It’s vital that whatever else changes, basic forklift safety standards remain in place, because the risks around the unsafe use of these machines remain as serious as ever. Something as simple as a different colleague sharing the operating area can increase risk if habitual shortcuts are taken in favour of fundamental forklift safety basics.

Regular refresher training is key to ensuring that operators maintain good driving habits, learn new skills (where appropriate), and reassess their abilities. It helps to ward off bad habits and complacent attitudes to safety which can soon spread throughout teams and cause costly accidents.

How often should operators receive refresher training?

The HSE recommends that refresher training take place at regular intervals, for example every 3–5 years. The required frequency will depend on a number of factors, including the operator’s skills, the type of equipment used, and the nature of the tasks. The best way to determine a suitable refresher frequency is by carrying out a risk assessment specific to your operation that takes these kinds of factors into account, and frequently reviewing this for relevance.

But once a policy has been agreed, refresher training should not be restricted to once every few years. It may also be necessary for other reasons, many of which will be especially relevant post lockdown.

For example, Approved Code of Practice (L117) states that refresher training may be required if operators have not used trucks for some time or have changed their working practices or environment. Operators returning from long periods away may have experienced skills fade and need to refresh their basic safety and motor skills before they re-join a dynamic working environment. Additional supervision will also be needed to ensure a smooth period of adjustment.

What if refresher training has to be delayed?

Many training providers are still delivering courses and can follow all necessary precautions regarding COVID-19, including social distancing and hygiene measures. (For more information see AITT’s Safe MHE Training Methods guidance here.)

However, if it is still not possible to arrange refresher training, employers must be able to justify their reasons for granting extensions and be able to prove that all measures have been taken to ensure that operators continue to use equipment safely. They must also be mindful to schedule in the necessary training when the 3-month extension runs out.

When rescheduling training, we strongly advise that companies do not make blanket changes to their normal refresher policy because of the pandemic. Neglecting refresher training could have serious consequences for your staff and your business, and altering any established schedules should only be done with sufficient justification, e.g. new risk assessments.

It is important to remember that even though the recommended timescale for refresher training is not a regulation in itself, as an Approved Code of Practice, L117 has special legal status. It provides guidance which, if followed, will ensure that employers comply with the law. Therefore, if a company is prosecuted for a H&S breach and it’s proven that they didn’t follow L117 (or demonstrate that they complied in another way), they will be found at fault by the court and risk potential prosecution, fines or both.

For the safety of your workforce and your business, make sure that your operators’ skills are up to date and deliver sufficient training when required. By doing so, you can be confident that operations will stay safe, legal and profitable in the long term.

If you require any advice on refresher training, please contact us here or on 01246 555222.

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