To maintain safety and compliance as operations resume and forklift operators return to work, RTITB is reminding employers of the necessity to provide assessments and refresher training.

“We are now, fortunately, in a situation where many operations are re-starting or returning to pre-lockdown capacity, and where many forklift operators who had been on furlough are returning to work,” says Laura Nelson, Managing Director for RTITB, the UK’s leading workplace transport training accrediting body. “Alongside considerations around PPE, hygiene and social distancing, employers must also provide the operator training and assessment that is required for both safety, and compliance.”

In March 2020, for those businesses remaining operational, the Health and Safety Executive permitted authorisations to operate for material handling equipment (MHE) operators to be extended by up to three months if it was not possible to deliver refresher training due to Covid-19 (and subject to fulfilment of particular requirements). Although they have not had time away from the workplace, these forklift operators may also now be due refresher training to retain their authorisation to operate.

“There are several ways that employers can approach this situation to remain compliant and keep their people safe,” explains Laura. “Where operators are returning to work having not used a truck for some time, the most assured method of compliance would be to provide refresher training prior to re-instating their authorisation to operate.”

“Alternatively, you could opt to carry out an assessment on all of your operators prior to re-authorisation and provide refresher training only to those who do not meet the assessment criteria,” she continues, explaining that the best course of action will vary, depending on what is reasonably practicable in different businesses.

However, the HSE guidance remains that employers must not allow any employee to operate MHE without re-assessment or re-training if their authorisation to operate has expired, or if they’ve been away from work for a period of time.

To identify the best course of action and assess potential risks as forklift operators return to work, RTITB recommends that an employer should consider five key questions.

1. Is the returning operator recently qualified or relatively inexperienced?

2. Is the operator within scope of existing company policies (for example, does the operator return to work policy require retraining after a four-month absence)?

3. Is the operator lacking confidence or requesting extra support? Employers should talk to the operator to find out how they are feeling about returning to work.

4. Does the returning operator have a history of poor operating?

5. Is a competent Instructor or training organisation available to help?

“However the employer chooses to roll out assessment or refresher training, they should also provide increased supervision and work-based observations of forklift operators once they’re back in the workplace,” says Laura. “This helps ensure their continued correct operational ability at a time where safety is more of a priority than ever.”

RTITB online knowledge top-up courses to support refresher training are available now. Visit www.rtitb.com/elearning to find out more or call RTITB for advice on +44(0)1952 520 200.

For more information on RTITB Accredited Partner organisations that can provide forklift operator assessments and refresher training, visit www.rtitb.com/course-locator.