Machinery training – it’s a shared responsibility
In this article, Neil Adams, training and development manager at Reesink Turfcare, whose training is industry-leading and also one of the biggest on offer in the industry, says training is fast becoming a necessity, planned for in the annual budget.
Health and safety in the turfcare industry will always be vitally important, but long gone are the days of delivering a handbook with the machine, and that being enough to tick the box.
Customers have realised that it's important, not only for the health and safety of the operator and those nearby, but that machines are a significant investment and, in order to ensure the best results from them and as long a working life as possible, then they need to be operated correctly. In fact, it's long been proven that, where machinery is correctly installed, there was a measurable reduction in damage during operation. Where this was followed by further formal operator training, the maintenance savings between trained and untrained were substantial.
Neil Adams comments: "There is no season for training and we never have 'down-time' or flat periods. It's busy all year round because people buy machinery all year round for various applications. Customers appreciate that, in order to maximise their investment in their machinery, staff need to have the correct training on how to use them to their best advantage."
Effective installation should set the scene for what is to follow. It should place clear emphasis on safe and correct operation, which is then followed by continuing with training to ensure the basics are consolidated into every day work as a matter of course.
There can sometimes be some confusion between installation and operator training and it's important to draw a clear distinction.
Historically, many new machines have been 'installed' simply by leaving the manufacturer's handbook on the seat when the machine has been delivered by the dealer. Today, the sharper legal focus on employee health and safety means the supplier and the employer share a responsibility to provide far more than this - providing a copy of the handbook is not a guarantee that operators will read and understand it before first operating the machine!
Installation is about the handover of new and used machinery to the course manager or head groundsman and should highlight the information about safe and correct operation contained in the manufacturer's handbook. It is normally the responsibility of the supplier and is largely about communicating important information face-to-face to all operators - even if many are already experienced.
Installation' should cover the safe systems of work, details of the principal operating systems and controls with particular reference to safety guards, interlocks, signs and warning signals; safe starting and stopping and routine maintenance.
Although the supplier is responsible for installation, the process also requires the co-operation of the course manager to ensure that the right operators are made available to learn about the new machine and that the timing and location are suitable.
So where does the installation stop and operator training begin?
Operator training is, as the name suggests, about competence to operate the machine correctly under different conditions and in different applications and, although safety is a key concern, the yardstick is performance.
It's the responsibility of the employer to develop the skills of employees with limited experience of a particular type of machine. In practice, there are many crossovers with the content of turf machinery training courses. For example, health and safety, daily maintenance and use of the controls will often be the same, but things can change, not only in machinery model upgrades but also in legislation.
The past few years have seen an increase in operator training courses. This has come about in part, due to the health and safety executive reviewing the use of machines in the agricultural/groundscare industry and the possible introduction of a mandatory licence for all operators.
Some dealers have seen this structured training as an opportunity to contribute to the safety of the industry and improve customer care and after-sales satisfaction. Manufacturer's training or accredited training through LANTRA and/or the City & Guilds, is generally available from manufacturers, training providers, local dealers, or distributors such as Reesink Turfcare.
We have not yet seen the introduction of a mandatory operator's licence but, casting an eye towards the construction industry with its introduction of the CITB licence for machinery operators, I believe it's only a matter of time before we see something similar in our industry.
Installation is NOT a substitute for operator training. Getting the best from the latest turfcare machinery and equipment takes a considerable amount of skill and knowledge. Skills develop over time with practice. What operators learn and how well they perform is the responsibility of their managers.
Correct manufacturer's training will ensure you receive the latest updates, user tips and uncover the advanced features of the machinery ensuring that the club gets the all-round benefits and usability of the equipment.
Grounds training offer training course for various types of machinery. Check it out https://www.groundstraining.com/courses/