Power Lift Equipment – Steps to Promote Safe Operation

Information from the desk of Norma White, United Staffing Associates’ Director of Health & Safety:

Light and heavy industrial business operations are plagued with the daily presence of hazards. Regular, day-to-day operations, such as use of power tools, heavy machinery, conveyors, power lift equipment and other equipment or devices can be so common, that workers forget the magnitude of risk when operating an inherently dangerous tool or equipment. Power lift equipment or PLE is mechanical equipment that can be battery operated or fueled that typically lifts heavy objects, such as pallets with product, other equipment, etc. The PLE itself can weigh several tons, depending on the model and scope of intended use. For this reason, it is critical that employers ensure that workers are properly trained to operate PLE before first use. There are local, state and federal regulations pertaining to PLE certification. It is important that employers consult with a safety professional to have proper education on the certification requirements, including the frequency of re-training or re-certifying.

Here are a few standard training and/or safety practices, in addition to any local, state or federal regulations, for certifying an operator of power lift equipment:

Watch the video: Most insurance companies providing general liability and/or workers’ compensation insurance coverage to a business, have a library of safety-related videos that can be used as part of PLE certification. PLE operators should watch the applicable safety video for the model of equipment to be used. This is typically the first step in the training process before operating PLE.

Practice: If the workspace permits for the operator-in-training to safely engage in practice operation, it is ideal to allow for PLE trainees who have exhibited responsible behavior, to have “practice rounds” on the PLE, always with proper supervision. The practice operation can take place outside on a paved, even surface away from hazards, other PLE, vehicles and pedestrians. Prior to each practice round, the certified PLE trainer MUST go over the features of the PLE, including emergency stop features, if any.

Identify Common Hazards: Prior to certification completion, the certified PLE trainer should verbally inform the trainee of all site-specific, known hazards such as pedestrian walkways, dock ramps, etc. It is then recommended that a site walk-through is completed so that the trainee can see the identified hazards for him or herself.

“Operation Probation”: Depending on the local, state or federal certification regulations, it may be permissible to issue a temporary permit or “learner’s permit” that allows for responsible and competent trainees to operate PLE with direct supervision for a short period of time until receiving full certification. During this period of time, the trainee may be assigned to use PLE in “low” traffic areas.

Are you ready?: After the “operation probation” period, the trainee should be fully reviewed in all operation procedures and fulfillment of all certification requirements should be completed. The individual responsible for issuing certification, must make a final determination as to the trainee’s fitness to operate the PLE according to standards.

For purposes of this article power lift equipment PLE is intended to be synonymous with power industrial truck PIT operations. Please consult your Risk and/or Safety professional for specific information related to power equipment used at your facility and the required training and certification[s]. This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not take the place of manufacturer instructions and/or regulatory compliance governed by the local, state and/or federal government regarding power equipment operations.