Cherry picker familiarisation training

Supatrain proudly manages the training of Cherry Picker Operators on behalf of SA Platforms, a company specialising in the rentals and maintenance of Mobile Elevated Lifting Platforms (Cherry Pickers).

We have been their alliance partner in training for going on two years and have learnt much about this industry. What precisely do we do? Basically we train and licence Cherry Picker Operators. We are accredited by the Services Sector and Training Authority and are a member of the Institute for Work at Heights (IWH). Novices are first issued with a temporary licence after which they are given maximum three months in which to complete a practical component.

Once this has been submitted and verified, operators are issued with a permanent licence valid for three years. Operators whose licences have expired are given refresher training and reassessed before new licences are issued.

A challenge currently been experienced in this industry is that related to machine familiarisation training. It is logical that clients and their operators should be familiarised on machines they hire, but precisely what is the value of familiarisation? How does it compare to training for licence purposes and can it stand up to legal requirements in terms of competence requirements? Is it fair that we should be competing with companies not formally accredited to do training? Alternatively is it fair to expect all Cherry Picker rental companies to get accredited as training providers to “legalise” familiarisation training? In addition- what are the cost implications of different types of training and how does this impact industry practice? We have not been able to answer these questions but we can venture an opinion from an instructional point of view.

Popular definitions of training identify the results of training as knowledge, skills and attitude (behaviour) gain. To what extent is a two to three hour familiarisation session able to change knowledge, skill and behaviour? We believe that an effectively structured session can change knowledge and skills but that this session cannot simply be verbal with no supporting notes, like we believe it currently is. We are also doubtful about changing behaviour in a familiarisations session as we think there are many other factors contributing in the workplace to behaviour change like management style. Assessment policy in South Africa describes competent individuals as possessing foundational understanding, practical application and an ability to adapt to various situations (reflexive). It is unlikely that familiarisation would be able to develop this adapting ability.

What is very evident from practice is that we do not know the value of familiarisation training because it traditionally it does not include assessment! Therefore we cannot evaluate knowledge or skills gain!

Ultimately, familiarisation training is probably just a paper exercise. From a training point of view there is room for improvement. From a legal point of view perhaps we need to be asking whether there should be different standards for different situations; whether some workplaces require less competence than others or some machines are less complex and or hazardous and therefore require a different level of mastery. Are some environments more controlled than others with operators working within “given” situations?

Watch this space as our thinking evolves on this issue…

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By David Loubser, R&D Manager, Situtrain


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