“Those two workers acted foolishly,” said George, the supervisor. “You can’t cite us when our people disregarded their safety training.”
“I can and I will,” replied Tammy, the compliance officer. “One of your staffers suffered severe injuries when he fell from a forklift that was being driven recklessly by a coworker.”
“Yes, that’s correct,” said George. “However, those guys were trained in proper forklift operation. They knew better than to drive the vehicle carelessly.”
“Perhaps they did,” replied Tammy, “but I’m not focused on the speed of the vehicle; I’m focused on the fact that neither of them was wearing a seat belt.”
“There’s no doubt they should’ve been wearing seat belts,” said George, “but we provided them with training on the proper operation of forklifts. We can’t be held responsible when employees disregard their training.”
“Do you have any records to prove they were trained?” asked Tammy.
“Sure,” said George, as he handed several documents to Tammy.
The compliance officer scanned the paperwork. “There’s nothing in here about wearing seat belts,” she said.
“We provide that information to them verbally,” said George.
“That’s not good enough,” said Tammy, “The citation sticks.”
“Those workers were trained to wear seat belts,” said George. “We’ll fight your fine.”
Did the company win?
No. The company lost. An appeals board refused to overturn the citation. The board said the employer failed to prove that the workers were trained to wear seat belts while operating forklifts.
Even though the employer provided solid evidence that the staffers were trained in safe forklift operation, said the board, there was nothing in the written training records to indicate that they’d been specifically trained to wear seat belts while operating forklift trucks.
Without proof of specific training, the citation was ruled to be valid.
What it means: Confirm all topics are covered
When you provide safety training to your staffers, make sure to keep a written record of the training. The record should include individual employee signatures to show who actually attended the sessions.
It’s also important to make sure each safety training program covers all required topics. Double-check training materials prior to safety presentations in order to verify that all potential hazards and risks are included in the training. If the material omits a critical safety consideration, make sure to add it. Also maintain written records to show that the specific training was provided.
Based on California Occupational Safety and Health Administration v. FedEx Ground.
(From the Sept. 20, 2021, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)