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The legislative information contained on this web site is my interpretation of the law based on many years in the health and safety business. A definitive interpretation can only be given by the courts. I will therefore not be held responsible for any accident/incident/prosecution arising as a consequence of anyone using any information obtained from this web site.

history of forklift training standards

By John, (Dai), Carter M.I.M.H., M.I.M.M.,M.I.Log. (Lapsed)

counterbalanced forklift truckI am grateful to Mr John, (Dai), Carter, (who was the first RTITB registered forklift instructor in the UK back in 1969), for the following information which is written in his words.


As a result of the 1964 Industrial Training Act about twenty two industrial training boards were created. The concept being driven by Barbara Castle the then  Minister of Labour was that all employers employing five or more people would pay a levy (Tax) based on how many people they employed to an industrial training board. The only way to recover any of that levy was to prove they had provided grant worthy training. Each industrial training board was made responsible for creating and publishing  acceptable training standards. The major ones like engineering, chemicals  etc., got up and running fairly quickly. After a while it became obvious that with some skills there was a danger of duplication and possible chaos. So a new department was set up within the Ministry of Labour to allocate these skills. RTITB were given the responsibility for training standards in road transport, furniture removal, garages, public service vehicles,warehousing and cold storage. Fork lift trucks fell under warehousing so the RTITB got this responsibility too.

At the time they were under some pressure because  the government was also introducing a totally new licensing system for drivers of lorries, buses and coaches etc. This meant they were having to design training courses for drivers, instructors and managers, with no history to base them on. Up until then one could drive just about anything on a car driving license. The DITB had the responsibility for distribution centres, such as Tesco, Sainsbury etc and furniture outlets. This meant that if any levy paying employer sought grant for training fork truck operators, the training had to meet the standard set by the RTITB. Unfortunately The RTITB  in truth had no one from the fork truck Industry and the senior manager given the responsibility was a Gerry Fortnum who was an ex naval officer  who had some experience in the  furniture retail industry. He really put a lot of effort into this and he commissioned the Industrial Training unit at Cambridge University to produce a trainability assessment est for fork truck operators. He also set up a fork truck training facility at their training centre called MOTEC, (Multi Occupational Training & Education Centre), which had been developed on a disused airfield in a village called High Ercall in Shropshire. They commenced training there in 1968 with apprentice training for auto electricians and auto mechanics and management courses for garages and courses for new and used car sales people and public service vehicles got up and running that year too. Gerry Fortnam recruited me that year too, in fact I was the first fork lift truck instructor they employed and I had to spend the first ten weeks working at the headquarters in Wembley.


The day I joined the  RTITB  I was given a desk piled high with literature such as truck manuals, a few training programs and some films. I was told to study it and produce a training course with an outline syllabus, a detailed syllabus and a balanced timetable  for fork truck operators. It was all very new to me but I read all of the material and I liked the army version. It ran a two week course to train people to operate a counterbalance truck, a reach truck and a powered pallet truck. In my view that produced the ideal warehouseman so I wrote it  in civilian language and a chap called Bob Common who was employed as a technical writer wrote it up properly. It was then taken  for approval by the then Ministry of Labour who had set up a department that determined how grant should be paid. Levy was based on the numbers of employees and grant being paid by the number of training days attended but they had set rigid guidelines and said said "no, a maximum of five days will be approved for training operators and ten days for instructors".

The RTITB went back to the drawing board and  I wrote up a four and a half day course for counterbalance or reach trucks in order to attract the most grant and this remains the basis of the current standard. Bob Common turned my scribble into a professional document.  I claim no credit for what was produced  as the info was gleaned from various sources such as a book first produced by Joseph Lucas and Co in 1950, a bit from several American truck manufacturers manuals and a bit from the Army. By this time a colleague named Ike Pruden had joined me. Ike had been an Instructor with the National Dock Labour Board at Liverpool and we both went to Letchworth Government Training Centre to be trained as instructors. (Webmaster's note: Ike later came to work for me after he left the RTITB. He once delivered a lesson to me on the correct technique for mounting and dis-mounting a forklift truck which took 20 minutes!)

We had both been trained in methods of instruction before, but we both enjoyed the course. They set really high standards and taught us both a lot. Then we spent a week at The Coventry Climax factory which was very educational. We were then told to report to MOTEC as we would be running an instructor course in two weeks time. "Where is the course material" I asked? "Write it" said Mr Fortnam. I wrote it up and we ran the first one and it was successful. So we ran operator courses and instructor courses, meanwhile headquarters were being pressed by other boards to publish their standards so they asked us to design a test course which I designed and my head of department at that time, Brian Todd, produced a marking system and then they went to press in 1969  with their “Selection and Basic Training Of Fork Truck Operators”, (the famous "Red Book"), before the research into trainability assessment was complete. They now had a test that worked but it took too long at time at interview to be attractive to the majority of employers.  RTITB also introduced the three stage training concept, Basic Training, Specific Job Training and On The Job Familiarisation because the novice may have to use a different make of truck at work to what they were trained on. This later went on to form the basis for the Approved Code Of Practice issued by HSE.

How the standards came about>>

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