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What is Specific Job Training for forklift operators?

Below is a recent article from RTITB concerning Specific Job Training for forklift operators. It would be fair to say that very often, once an operator has been through a basic training course and has their "licence", this part of forklift operator training tends to get overlooked. The following excellent article explains specific job training in detail.

The Health & Safety Executive’s Code of Practice for Rider Operated Trucks L117, (which has special legal status) and associated guidance clearly states that adequate operator training should consist of three distinct stages – Basic Training, Specific Job Training and Familiarisation Training. Specific Job Training is where the knowledge and skills learnt during Basic Training are applied to the truck in the operator’s workplace. Specific Job Training should take place away from day-to-day work pressures.

Only after all three stages are complete should an operator be issued with an authorisation to operate on site.

When should I deliver Specific Job Training?

Before Specific Job Training can be completed, you should ensure that the operator has undergone adequate Basic Training and passed a recognised Basic Operating Skills Test.

Some employers find it easiest to combine the Specific Job Training course with Basic Operator Training. Whether you do it this way or deliver it separately, Specific Job Training should always be conducted ‘off the job’ and must be documented as part of the operator’s training record.

What is covered in Specific Job Training?

As it says in the name, this training is specific to the job in hand, so will vary vastly from business to business. It is important that the Specific Job Training delivered is unique and relevant to the activities that the forklift operator will be completing day-to-day in your organisation. However, the areas typically covered include:

Machine controls– the lift truck used during Basic Training may be different to the lift truck an operator will be required to use in the workplace, so it’s important to pay attention to the layout and configuration of the controls on the workplace lift truck, as well as its operating principles.

Attachments– many lift truck operators will be required to use attachments during their role. This is a chance to introduce how to use these specific attachments correctly.

Environment and conditions– the Basic training environment may be very different to the real-life working environment that the operator will encounter. Specific Job Training can cover the environment they will operate in, such as confined areas, uneven surfaces, lifts, racking systems and cold stores, as well as considering adverse weather conditions and the other vehicles on site.

Site rules– operations will have several rules, many of which are designed to ensure safety. Training should cover speed limits, one-way systems, site layout, use of protective clothing and devices, handling particular load types, using specific attachments for loads, and more.

Specific tasks– every business is different so its important to consider the actual tasks that will form part of a forklift operators’ daily workload in the particular employer’s operation. This can include handling particular load types or how vehicles are loaded.

Inspection and maintenance– it is important for a lift truck operator to understand how to inspect the make and type of trucks they will be working on and to know about the maintenance requirements. This should all be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s handbook.

Safe practices– while all operator training is strongly focused on safety, this can cover some of the more specific elements, including key custody arrangements and truck safety procedures.

More information on what your Specific Job Training should cover can be found in the HSE INDG462 Lift-truck training: Advice for Employers.

How long does Specific Job Training take?

As every business, and every operator, is different, this varies. Specific Job Training should continue as long as necessary until the operator fully understands how to safely and efficiently operate a lift truck in order to complete the particular tasks for their role. Once the Instructor and employer are satisfied with this and have suitably addressed the operator’s training needs, the operator can be successfully signed off from their Specific Job Training. Now that this level has been completed, the operator is ready to move on to Familiarisation Training. As previously mentioned, for both safety and legal compliance this must be completed before an employer issues an authorisation to operate.

Further information can be found in the HSE Approved Code of Practice L117 – Rider-operated lift trucks: Operator training and safe use.

Who can deliver Specific Job Training?

Specific Job Training should only be delivered by a competent person who is themselves qualified to operate the truck and attachments in which training is being delivered. They must be able to prove this and have an authorisation to operate from the employer.

As well as being highly competent and confident in operating the truck used for Specific Job Training, they should also be familiar with your workplace environment and the tasks that the operator will be required to complete day-to-day. This is where an in-house instructor can be really beneficial as they will know your workplace far better than an external training provider.

Does an operator only need Specific Job Training once?

In order to keep the work environment safe and efficient, refresher training is required to be provided at periodic intervals on all aspects of the operator’s role and functions. Where refresher training is conducted on a lift truck where the manufacturer/model is different to the one used by the operator in the workplace, employers must satisfy themselves that the operator’s competences relating to their specific workplace standards are maintained – this can be achieved by formal training and task specific observations by a competent person within the workplace.

As an employer, you must also provide specific job training to operators when replacing lift trucks of the same category or when new handling tasks are introduced.

Where can I find out more about Specific Job Training?

Further guidance on the different levels of operator training required, plus further help on effective workplace training and relevant safety regulations, can be found in the RTITB Training Recommendations for Workplace Transport Guide available through the RTITB online shop