The Evolution of Operator Training

Mack Layow

When it comes to forklift safety, the standards have changed over the years.

Fraza’s seasoned Operator Trainer, Mack Layow, has seen it all. Mack began working for GB Sales & Service, Inc. (now Fraza) in February of 1984, and after 35 years in forklift safety, he is closing this chapter and retiring. With National Forklift Safety Day approaching on June 11, we thought we’d ask Mack to share some of the stories and insight he’s collected over the years before he says goodbye. From starting out servicing fork trucks to developing an Operator Training Program, Mack has been at the forefront of forklift safety for decades.

Changes in Safety Standards

Since Mack has been in the industry, he’s witnessed a variety of changes regarding forklift safety. Today, OSHA standards require training that includes formal instruction, practical training, and a workplace performance evaluation. However, these steps to ensure safety would have been extreme when Mack was starting out his career.

“Back in the ‘80s, training was pretty much, ‘This is a fork truck, that’s the gas and the brake, take it out back and drive it for a few minutes and you will figure it out,’” said Mack when asked about changes he has seen over the years. This method of learning – by trial and error – puts both operators and pedestrians in danger.

At that time, there was a huge need for operator training, but very little being conducted, so Mack was asked to develop a training program, which continues to provide many forklift operators in southeastern Michigan their certification. “Fraza offers a variety of training programs and has done a great job at increasing awareness and communicating the importance of safety not only to operators, but also to all employees,” Mack said. According to Optimum Safety Management, 70% of all forklift accidents could be avoided with proper training.1 Initial training is required and safety standards are constantly being updated, so it’s important to update your certification every three years to be well informed on the changes that occur.

Mack’s Tips for Forklift Safety

Operator training is the first step to keeping the workplace safe, but Mack has more tips that he believes are equally as important; “A major topic to cover is pedestrian safety,” he said. “Operators are required to follow all safety rules because they are responsible to ensure they keep all employees safe on the work site.” Looking both ways before crossing the street is common knowledge to pedestrians on the road and should also be implemented in the workplace. The forklift operator is responsible to look out for pedestrians and give them the right of way, but educating pedestrians on forklift safety can help them be more aware in their work environment and make safety everyone’s responsibility.

A driver has gone through the steps to become qualified to operate a truck, but there are some rules that even the most experienced drivers tend to forget. “Operators need to make full use of all the safety devices equipped on material handling equipment, such as using seatbelts on counter balanced trucks and the harness/lanyards on order picker trucks,” Mack stressed. “When operators are properly trained and management enforces and encourages safe operation, this keeps the equipment and the work area as safe as possible.”

With his years of experience, Mack has accumulated a wealth of knowledge on forklift safety and has shaped Fraza’s training and certification courses from the very beginning. His last tip is to choose a reputable company for Operator Training. “Our training program exceeds MIOSHA requirements, and we have a variety of classes that will fit your needs. Fraza conducts basic, accelerated, and recertification classes along with ‘Train the Trainer’ courses to conduct in-house training for your employees,” Mack said.

“With a flexible training schedule, two full time trainers and two training centers, we make it easy to get the training that you need,” Mack said. “Selecting Fraza for your Operator Certification means selecting a company that has the experience, knowledge and dedication to assisting our customers to be well informed on safe operations.”

1(Forklift Safety: Facts, Stats and Tips for Safe Operation [Infographic], 2017)