Can you learn to operate machinery online

Can you learn to operate machinery online?

Most learning comprises two aspects: theoretical and practical. When it comes to driving and operating heavy machinery, there is no exception. Heavy machinery is inherently dangerous – in fact, globally, hundreds of people a year are killed in forklift accidents with many thousands more seriously injured.

The theory behind the operation of machines like forklifts, graders and cranes covers pre-shift inspections, understanding the vehicle’s limits, managing hazards, refuelling, techniques and best practices, health and safety and general tips and tricks from experienced operators. It’s impossible to safely operate a forklift without at least knowing how to check that it is functioning properly, what each lever and control does, how to read the data plate and how to know the limits of its operation. Without this, it would be easy to tip the forklift over or drop valuable cargo.

Once the operator knows the basics, they can start driving the vehicle in limited scenarios, putting their new knowledge to use. For a forklift operator, this might mean practicing with a couple of pallets on a smaller forklift before progressing up to larger forklift trucks with heavy loads.

The demonstration of theory and best practice can take the form of animation, photos, video, voiceover, words and diagrams. Photos and video show real-world scenarios. Diagrams can simplify a complex scenario into an annotated image which is easier to understand. Animation can display concepts that could be dangerous or difficult to explain with video. Voiceover and on-screen text adds a deeper layer of information.

However, it should be noted that many machine operators struggle with functional literacy and language, so methods of teaching which focus on visual learning are better.

A piece of heavy machinery will tend to have some qualification that is required in order to operate it in a workplace. In the case of a forklift, this will be a licence, high-risk work licence, or operator’s certificate.

It’s possible to do a forklift licence online. The advantages of a course like this are:

  • Operators with low language and literacy skills are not disadvantaged – they can take as much time as required to complete the course, and there’s often multi-lingual support or audio recordings of questions
  • Scheduling in busy companies is made easier when the learning can be flexible – most online courses consist of modules and they can be done gradually, rather than having to be in a classroom for half a day
  • For operators who dread classroom situations, online learning gives them confidence to learn without the triggered fear of sitting with others in front of an instructor
  • Companies have more transparency over the results of the forklift training
  • Practical tuition can be done at the operator’s workplace which means they will use a forklift they are familiar with, and the practical assessment can be tailored to the requirements of the business
  • The price tends to be more competitive as there’s no charge for a trainer
  • It’s more environmentally friendly to do it online as no travel is required to attend a remote class.

Online learning, however, is not a panacea. Some people have a mental block when using computers. Other people prefer learning in a classroom environment interacting with other people. Some companies prefer to bring a trainer on-site to train their employees en masse. Some companies simply cannot provide computers or other devices for their forklift operators to use.

Success in online training relies on supervisors treating it like any other training session: scheduling time and following up with the trainee. Done well, online training is an enjoyable and rewarding experience for forklift operators, and one which can assist the bottom line of their employers by reducing training costs.

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