Most forklift accidents are caused by a lack of proper training, which the Denver-based company will offer in Montrose next month at the Holiday Inn Express.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that all forklift drivers be certified, Varga said, but there aren’t many opportunities to learn how to operate this heavy equipment on the Western Slope.
The two-day class will also include safety instruction. In addition, the company will display various types of specialized equipment it sells, including forklifts, scissors lifts, shelving, and racks as it tries to expand its markets.
But the emphasis is on the training, Varga said, which is usually not available in this area, though required by OSHA.
“Unfortunately, many (in this area) don’t have the advantage of someone telling them about the federal requirement for anyone who drives a powered industrial truck, which is OSHA’s fancy word for forklifts,” he said.
While “powered industrial trucks” can refer to equipment ranging from Zamboni machines on ice rinks to vehicles used to tow airplanes, the majority are forklifts, which is where most accidents occur, Varga said. A forklift drives quite differently from a car or truck, he added.
“Maybe the biggest thing is just to get (lift operators) to wear their seatbelts, since many are crushed by the overhead guard,” he said. “Last year in Colorado three people died, 1,500 were injured, and some people were paralyzed for life.”
The classes will be offered in two, four-hour sessions covering two days, Varga said. He urged companies with forklifts to enroll their drivers, even if they have experience, and especially if they are not yet certified, since he said OSHA is “cracking down” on uncertified drivers.
“Experience is not training under OSHA regulations,” he said, and forklift certification violations are the fifth most common OSHA violation.
Varga, a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, said qualified trainers will also work with those in the class on fall protection, including wearing a harness and working on aerial platforms.
“Our job is to make sure that everyone goes home with the same number of fingers and toes,” he said.
The safety instruction is “behavior type” training, Varga said, and is based on training developed by the Dupont Corporation.
“People have behaviors that defy the rules, but we teach that every choice matters,” he said. “It’s an attitude, and if you lose focus, you get hurt.”
While OSHA contends that it is an employers’ legal responsibility to pay for the $150 class, Varga said, since he’s had several requests, he will also accept people looking for work, although there are no promises of a future job.
“Some employers like to see the gumption to take the class, and our salesmen usually know who’s hiring, but there are never any guarantees,” he said.
To enroll, call 800-471-6749 or log onto fmhsolutions.com. Anyone with questions can contact Varga at HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com. The class will be held in late September, and a final date will be set soon.
Upon completion, participants will receive a certificate and wallet card, a manual and more, Varga said.
According to OSHA’s website ( www.osha.gov), 42 percent of fatal forklift accidents are caused by the vehicle tipping over, 25 percent by the person being crushed between the forklift and a surface, 11 percent by being crushed between two vehicles, 10 percent by being struck or run over by a forklift, 8 percent by falling material, and 4 percent by a fall from a platform. Forty-two percent of fatal accidents occur in the manufacturing industry, followed by 23.8 percent in construction, 11 percent in transportation, 12.5 percent in wholesale trades, 9 percent in retail trades and 1.2 percent in mining.