Skidsteers, Construction, and the Importance Of Staying Safe While On Task: An Instructor's Thoughts
If you need to learn how to operate a boom lift, skidsteer, forklift, or any other piece of mobile equipment, Ian L. is your go-to guy. With years of construction and equipment operating experience behind him, he is an instrumental part of ProSafe’s roster of instructors.
We were fortunate enough be able to sit down with Ian so as to understand exactly what he values most as a safety instructor.
Here’s what he had to say:
How did you get involved with ProSafe in the first place?
After being semi-retired for some time, I ended up getting back into the construction industry. One of the people I ended up going into business with was an instructor at ProSafe themselves. Through them I ended up meeting the owner of the company, and then transitioned into acting as an assistant instructor during the courses. Eventually they asked me to become certified and join full time, which is exactly what I did.
What inspired you to become an instructor?
At this point in my career, I only do things that I want to do and enjoy doing. When I was first introduced to ProSafe, I liked the attitude of the owner, how positive the team was, and just the general goals of the organization itself. To me, it quickly seemed like ProSafe was going to be a good team to work with moving forward.
As for becoming an instructor, I consistently trained others in some form or another throughout my career, so moving into mobile equipment training was a pretty simple jump.
As an instructor, it’s really great to see the positive impact that you are having on people’s lives. When I teach a class, it really feels like something important is unfolding. These courses focus on skill development, and really help people who are new to the industry get more involved, which is always exciting to see.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as an instructor?
A lot of what I do revolves around employment readiness training. A lot of younger people come through our doors with very little experience. Along with the practical aspects of mobile equipment operation, as an instructor it is also important that you teach them how to have the right attitude while on the job. This attitude is importance as it gives them confidence to speak up if a safety issue comes up.
Since so many of the students are young and inexperienced, as an instructor I place lots of emphasis on rights in the workplace. This can sometimes be challenging, particularly when they are new to the field – many of them may not at all familiar with what is needed to build their skillset in a safe manner.
Once they have their certifications, what should your students continue to be mindful of while working in the field?
The construction industry in general, and heavy machinery operation in particular, can be quite dangerous. When the proper measures aren’t taken, this type of career path can become very dangerous very quickly.
This is especially important when someone is learning – they may become very task focused, which can lead to them losing their focus on safety overall. Teaching people how to maintain safe practices is a major component of my teaching style.
Ideally, people shouldn’t be getting complacent. Once someone starts doing the same things over and over they may start to lose focus – this is when accidents will happen. If something bad happens in the field, it’s often because someone got too relaxed. When I notice that a student or colleague is losing focus, I always make a point to tell them to sit back and re-examine what they are doing.
When I started in construction there was no such thing as standardized safety programs. When on site, you would just get thrown into the thick of things and have to learn as you went. Because of this, there have been many tragedies, some of which have impacted people I know personally. Taking this history into consideration, I have great incentive to tell students just how important safety is, educate them on how the past was different, and prove that they can put what they have learned towards creating a brighter, safer future for everyone.
In your opinion, what does the future of the industry look like?
Well, things have improved over time, and will certainly only continue to improve. Mobile aerial work platforms, for example, now have more regulations behind their operation than ever before. As things progress, we can only expect more regulations will arise. This is definitely a good thing, as it makes it mandatory for companies to have proper safety protocols in place. When I was young there was no WHMIS, no fall protection, nothing to keep workers from injuring themselves.
Between skidsteer, power pallet jack, and forklift, which one do you enjoy teaching the most?
Out of all of those, I like teaching skidsteers because students have a lot of fun doing it. You get to see them enjoy themselves, and have confidence that they will be able to use their new skill in the workplace. When they come out of training with a ‘I can do that’ attitude, you know they’ll have incentive to make the most of their training out in the field.
Outside of construction and warehouse work, what sort of roles can your students expect to find upon getting certified?
I often see people end up in roles that involve the equipment, but not on a regular basis. Lots of my students end up using their tickets sporadically in their workplace. As an example, when working at a marina, there may be trucks that have to be loaded and unloaded. While it may not be the most important part of your job, you may end up occasionally hopping on the forklift to speed up the process. Being ticketed gives you lots of opportunities to break into a new industry. The occasional chance to use mobile equipment can still open up a lot of new doors.
One of my students got her forklift ticket, but was unsure where she could put it to use afterwards. When we connected in the future, she surprised me by telling me she ended up using it at the Food Bank, of all places. They owned a forklift, but nobody in their warehouse was able to operate it. When she started volunteering there, she ended up using her training to help out the organization in ways that neither her (nor I) would’ve expected.