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On-Site, In-Service Training Favored For Meeting New OSHA Regulations
Response to Regs: Pallet businesses plan to turn to on-site or in-service training to meet new federal regulations mandating new forklift operator training.
By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 7/1/1999
Pallet businesses plan to turn to on-site or in-service training to meet new federal regulations mandating new forklift operator training, according to an informal survey by Pallet Enterprise. Pallet companies estimated the cost of the new regulations at about $100 to $200 per forklift driver.
Many companies contacted by the Enterprise were reluctant to discuss the new requirements issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or asked not to be identified, apparently out of fear of falling under the agencyís scrutiny.
Employers are responsible for training forklift operators, evaluating them, and documenting the training and evaluation. (Editorís Note: see related story starting on page 31.) Failure to comply can result in citations, fines, and even imprisonment.
Of the few pallet companies contacted by the Enterprise, most indicated that they did not believe the new training requirements would be overly burdensome.
The new regulations give employers wide latitude as to how to conduct training. Employers decide details such as what kind of training, how it will be conducted, and where.
Bernie Bartley is president of Robinson Pallet and Equipment in Woodbine, N.J., which employs 45 people and has six forklifts. "I will probably use an on-site trainer," said Bernie, vice chairman of the Recyclers Council of the National Wood Pallet and Container Association. "Itís something I have done in the past. I brought the trainer on-site and all active forklift drivers took part. They gained some insight into loads."
Most of his companyís forklift drivers have previous experience. In addition, at previous on-site training seminars, much of what the trainer covered was very familiar.
Since his company already conducts training, Bernie believes the new regulations will have little impact on his business. The evaluation and refresher requirements in the new OSHA rule might add as much as $1,500 to his cost of doing business in a year, he estimated. That is considerably more than the $11.27 per operator that OSHA predicts compliance will cost on average.
Bernie believes he will be able to reduce the costs by using in-service training and evaluation. Operators who perform well will be able to train and evaluate others, particularly new hires. The combination of approaches that he plans is just the sort that OSHA expects to see.
Mt. Valley Farms & Lumber Products in Biglerville, Pa., has 80 employees and 18 forklifts in its lumber and pallet operations. Henry L. Taylor, president, has always used in-house safety orientations and videos to train forklift operators. In response to the new OSHA rule, Taylor plans for an on-site trainer and videos.
The additional training will be a significant expense, but Henry believes it will result in "less injuries, improved driving records [and] safety awareness." The most challenging aspect of the new requirements will be training new hires, he said.
Chep, the international pallet and container pooling company, also is making plans for compliance. Chep employs over 800 people throughout the Americas and has over 180 third-party depot locations. Chep personnel recently participated in the Materials Handling Forklift Conference to increase their knowledge of forklift training and the new OSHA regulations.
Katy Kasischky, Chep marketing communications manager, gave an example of how one depot in Garland, Tex. is complying. The depot has eight forklifts. Customized training will be provided on-site by a vendor and will include a video presentation, written exams and practical applications.
"Chep views its forklift operators as valuable team members to its operation," said Dick Bombardieri, vice president for manufacturing. "So, whether it be at one of the Chep third-party depots or within a Chep-managed facility, Chep views the new OSHA regulation to be appropriate and in-line with Chepís commitment to a safe work environment."
Several other pallet companies indicated they would turn to on-site training or in-service training, and one reported it would send an employee to a seminar to be taught how to train others. "I think we all have a concern about safety and need to continue to move forward in a cost-effect way," said a New England pallet manufacturer who asked to remain anonymous.
There are a number of companies that provide forklift training services and materials. For example, Hawthorne Lift Systems of Escondido and Fontana, Calif. charges $55 per student for its basic forklift training course; the basic course does not include evaluation, which is available for an extra fee. Hawthorne requires a minimum of 10 students for on-site classes.
DMS of San Jose, Calif. also charges $55 per person. The length of the class (two or four hours) depends on class size.
TruckingUSA- Forklift 2000 in Fair Grove, Mo. offers individual video modules for experienced operators ($125 for 15 minutes), a video on the new rules ($245 for 40 minutes) and other products. It also sells a consolidated package of videos for $395 that saves over $300 when purchased separately.
Forklift Safety Training Services of Fort Collins, Col. offers a "two hour comprehensive training kit" for $599 plus shipping and handling. Employers may use it in conjunction with hands-on training. It is available in English and Spanish and has been used by many large client businesses, such as Rental City, the U.S. Army, and Waste Management.
Peter Robles, the owner of the Certified Forklift Training Center in Buena Park, Calif. was reluctant to estimate what bringing a trainer on-site might cost a pallet company. The array of equipment and the scope of the training would determine the cost, he said.
"Iíve been getting a lot of inquires from insurance companies," he said. The insurers want to make certain their clients are in compliance.
Peter, who drove a forklift for 16 years before becoming a trainer for the National Safety Council in 1982 and later going independent, made some suggestions for training employees in forklift operations.
When training a group of people, know the audience. A class that seemed very knowledgeable and responsive once surprised Peter when it took a written exam: 80% failed. As it happened, many in the class spoke English but did not read English well because it was their second language. "I had the test re-written in Spanish, and all passed with flying colors," he recalled. (All materials provided by the center now are available in English and Spanish.)
Some people perform better in oral evaluations, which are permitted. Also, trainees retain more information with hands-on training, according to Peter. He also emphasized the importance of "hazard recognition" and believes drivers who go through the training will be more likely "to say when;" that is, they will not push loads to dangerous levels, try tight fits, and so on.
Because employers have discretion and responsibility for the kind of training they conduct, they do not need to rely on materials or personnel from vendors who specialize in forklift training. There are several no-cost or low-cost solutions. An obvious one is to make full use of training provided by manufacturers when buying a new forklift. It will be specific to the equipment and satisfy part of the OSHA requirements.
OSHA has developed materials that employers can download from its Web site (www.osha-slc.gov/Training/PIT/pit_menu.htm) to use in conjunction with training. The OSHA offerings, which are free, include a sample training program, a sample performance test, a guide to developing a training program, and a complete presentation of 66 color slides.
Manufacturer training does not necessarily mean free training, but it often means subsidized training. For example, Clarklift of Los Angeles accepts coupons from dealers toward the cost of its wide array of courses. At its Web site, Clark has a page of safety reminders and encourages lift truck operators to print and distribute them.
Hiring experienced forklift operators makes more sense now than ever, but the new hires still must be evaluated ó certification from a previous employer will not do.
Incentives may seem like a good way to encourage forklift drivers to use the machines safely. However, research on the benefits of incentives produced murky conclusions. For example, a reward for an accident-free period may have an undesired effect: an employee who fails to report an accident.
Some forklift manufacturers will visit a business and conduct a free audit in order to suggest ways to improve the use of equipment with add-ons or new equipment. The audits may be useful to companies setting up their own training programs.
Some companies may rethink their entire use of forklifts. Are they deployed in the most efficient way? Can forklift trips be reduced or eliminated by improved material handling or plant lay-out? Also, a company may be able to replace some forklifts with automated handling equipment.
Failure to comply with the OSHA regulations may result in heavy penalties. A violation deemed willful or repetitious may result in a fine up to $10,000. A death resulting from a willful violation may bring up to six months in prison.