Myth buster: clearing up misconceptions about lift devices

Jun 05, 2014

lift truck decalNothing makes Chuck Leon's blood boil faster than hearing someone spout a lift truck myth or misconception. "And there are plenty of them," says Leon. He's a WSPS warehouse/material handling specialist with years of experience as an operator and a consultant, and knows firsthand that misinformation is dangerous. It can put people at risk and cause significant property damage.

Mindful of a just announced Ministry of Labour material handling inspection blitz scheduled for fall 2014, WSPS Network News asked Leon for some of the more pernicious myths. Here's what he told us.

  1. Lift truck operators must have a license. There's no such requirement under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Beware of training companies offering these licenses. The training may be valid, but the license is a gimmick. This is not to be confused with a corporate licensing or certificate system that an employer may have established as part of its internal training program. If you're hiring a lift truck operator, you're responsible for ensuring the operator meets Ministry of Labour requirements for competence (see "Setting the record straight," below).

  2. If you’ve received lift truck training from one employer, it's good for any workplace. You may have the theory training and skills to operate your new employer's lifting devices, but you'll still need training on hazards specific to the workplace. You'll also have to demonstrate that you can drive their equipment in their environment.

  3. My guy has 25 years experience. I can put him anywhere. He may be a very capable operator, but be careful about making assumptions. For instance, operating lift trucks in warehouses and manufacturing facilities are not interchangeable experiences. Experienced drivers may also have picked up bad habits over time, such as putting one hand on the outside of the mast for support when backing up, or driving with their legs sticking out. If you bang into a rack, you could lose your fingers or smash your legs.

  4. It’s the drivers' fault. No matter how many times I tell them, I catch my drivers taking short cuts. Maybe the drivers aren't the only problem. Maybe you're expecting them to do too much in the time available. Trying to get things done faster causes a lot of rack damage.

  5. Competent drivers don't need supervision. This may just be wishful thinking on the part of supervisors facing a time crunch of their own. If your supervisors don't have time to supervise, this is a workload issue, not a supervision issue. If supervisors aren't supervising, then it’s the workers who are running the plant or the warehouse. That's a problem.

  6. Our maintenance people can repair our lift trucks because they're jacks-of-all-trades. Are you sure they're fully qualified? Back in the day, you could take a 6-week course and become a lift truck repair person. But now these trucks have become so technical.

"CSA B335-04, Safety Standard for Lift Trucks, sets out the essential elements of a lift truck safety program and prescribes requirements for lift truck design and construction, maintenance and inspection, safe operation, and operator training."

Setting the record straight

A common theme among most of the myths above is ensuring the competence of your operators, trainers and maintenance people. These two resources can help you understand what’s required:

  • the Ministry of Labour's Guideline for the Safe Operation and Maintenance of Powered Lift Trucks. It identifies the main elements of a powered lift truck safety program, the knowledge and skills required by a worker in order to be a "competent" operator, and what's required to maintain lift trucks in a safe condition and in compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • CSA B335-04, Safety Standard for Lift Trucks, which sets out the essential elements of a lift truck safety program and prescribes requirements for lift truck design and construction, maintenance and inspection, safe operation, and operator training. It also recommends qualifications for trainers and maintenance technicians.

How to translate regulatory requirements into a sound, sustainable lift truck safety program

WSPS offers extensive resources and consulting expertise that can help you keep your operation safe and productive. Among the resources: classroom, on-site and e-courses on a range of topics, such as operator training, inspecting and maintaining storage racks, warehouse hazards, fall prevention, and more.

WSPS specialists such as Chuck Leon can help you develop or enhance your lift truck health and safety program by

  • conducting hazard assessments
  • assessing training needs
  • identifying and facilitating solutions
  • customizing and delivering on-site training

Watch for more on the material handling blitz in an upcoming issue of WSPS Network News. In the interim, find out more about our consulting services.