I had the pleasure recently of attending the final of the RTITB (Road Transport Industry Training Board) Operator of the Year competition at RTITB's premises in Telford. On walking into the venue my first thought was that it was like something from a television game show – gargantuan geese, golden eggs and treasure ‘cheques’.
However, as soon as the competition started, all thoughts of frivolity vanished as it became apparent that what the 10 finalists were being asked to do demanded the highest level of skill and concentration.
The competition was established in 2008 to recognise and reward health and safety success in the field of lift truck operation and gives employers and RTITB-accredited training organisations the opportunity to show their commitment to safe, efficient and correctly trained lift truck operators.
Anyone without any real knowledge of what the job of a forklift operator entails probably has no concept of the thousands of pounds that it costs each year to replace the trucks, racking and damaged stock that stem from incorrect truck use nor, more importantly, the high injury rates that occur.
Speaking at the RTITB's post-final dinner, Jane Willis, director of the HSE’s Cross-cutting interventions directorate, said: "Last year, 20 men didn’t return home from work because they were killed in accidents involving workplace transport. We owe it to the families of those men to improve standards and safety.”
As Ryszard Janus, winner of this year's competition, says: "Forklifts are powerful and sometimes very dangerous machines and everybody who operates them should know the correct way to use the equipment. The first step is to obtain good quality training conducted by qualified people."
Congratulations to Ryszard, and indeed to all the highly skilled finalists, and to the RTITB for an entertaining competition that does so much to raise awareness of the need for correctly trained lift truck operators.