Operator Refresher Training: Complying with the Law and Staying Safe
We are often approached by companies who question their legal responsibility to provide forklift and plant operator refresher training. The burning question is always, “how often are we required to refresh our operators’ skills?” Here’s what you need to know to ensure you comply with the law and keep your staff safe.
Once a person becomes comfortable with carrying out a particular task, there’s an increased risk that they will become complacent when doing so and, rather than following best practice, will be tempted to find a way to get the job done in the fastest time, so they can move on to the next task. With companies striving to maximise their effectiveness, operators can be placed under increased pressure, from time constrains to enforced output bonuses. This only encourages the likelihood of operators adopting bad habits that could eventually lead to an accident.
Regular training helps operators retain their competence and limit the risk of complacency creep. Skills will stay current and bad practice will be addressed, reducing the likelihood of accidents, hefty fines, prosecution, serious injuries or worse. Practically, legally and financially, it’s one of the best things that you can do for your workforce, and your business.
Complying with the law
Under the law, specifically PUWER 98, you as an employer are responsible for ensuring that your operators are fully trained and competent throughout their employment.
When it comes to plant operations, many operator licences issued by UK accrediting bodies come with an expiry date, supporting the need for refresher training by providing both the operator and employer with the “sell by date of operator’s skills”. The standard timescale before expiry is usually 5 years.
By contrast, for forklift training, accrediting bodies don’t always detail an expiry date on operator licences and certificates, which can cause confusion. While forklift refresher training itself isn’t technically a legal requirement, under L117 (Approved Code of Practice for Rider-Operator Lift Trucks), it’s recommended that operators receive refresher training every 3 to 5 years.
Suitable for all?
Once your risk assessment is complete, put it into practice. Regardless of the expiry dates detailed on the back of your operators’ licences, it is vital that you produce and communicate to your business a robust plant operations policy. Refresher training should form part of this document and must be of a timescale suited to your operations.
Remember, training should be provided when it is needed not left until the date it is due. Some employees may need their refresher training to be brought forward if unsafe working practices have been noticed. If you have changed or plan to change working practices or the environment, or if the operator does not use the equipment regularly, consider the most suitable retraining methods for these situations.
Stay safe and keep workforce skills current!