BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan--Larry Williams, 3-401st Army Field Support Battalion master driver, told four prospective forklift operators that forklift accidents account for 85 to 100 fatalities per year and approximately 100,000 injuries as he began a class to certify them as forklift operators Oct. 8 at 3-401st battalion headquarters.

Certification of Soldiers and Department of the Army civilian forklift operators is a new initiative for the battalion and is being facilitated by the Quality Assurance team. Williams presented a one-hour block of instruction covering the basics of forklift operations ranging from identifying the capacity of the particular forklift to what to do if the forklift starts to tip over - don't jump out. The curriculum was taken from The OSHA standard for powered industrial truck training [29 CFR 1910.178(l)] and the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center that is designed to provide information on how to safely operate forklifts ranging from 4K to 10K.

Williams discussed the forklift safety triangle and some of the things that present challenges to the forklift operator. He ticked off operating the forklift on rough terrain, the importance of the daily PMCS and safety inspection checklist, the high center of gravity, rear wheel steering, and wide turning radius, reduced visibility and not knowing the spotter's hand signals as challenges to safely operating the forklift.

Following a series of photos showing several 'what not to do' scenarios that left the participants asking "What were they thinking?" the group took a 28 question test and then the driving test.

Williams laid out a tight course and required each driver to pick up a load and maneuver through the course using an 8K forklift. He also had them repeat the course while backing up. He had stressed during the classroom session that forklift operators frequently have to operate in reverse for safety or space constraint reasons. The importance of being aware of the turning radius of the forklift was stressed and students had to account for in in the driving test.

"You just took out my wall," Williams said as students maneuvered the course. "You ran into the column (orange cone simulating the corner of a building) damaging the building and the forklift."

They next moved to the 10,000K forklift where the task was straight forward -- pick up a large box on a pallet, drive a designated route and then place the load on the ground.

"That was a $50,000 piece of equipment you just crushed," Williams said when one driver encountered difficulty getting the pallet off the forks.

The camaraderie of the group and patience of the instructor allowed the new drivers to refine their skills in a non-threatening environment.

"Classes will be offered monthly," said Russell W. Gordy, battalion Quality Assurance Chief. "Anyone who needs the training can contact Larry Williams at larry.p.williams@afghan.swa.army.mil or by calling 318-481-1702 or 079-713-8132 (cell)."