In 2008, RTITB launched the first ever Operator of the Year competition. This one of a kind, innovative and widely celebrated competition not only highlighted the great importance of safe, efficient and professional operators in the workplace, but also provided a way in which the industry, their instructors and their employers could congratulate them on their hard work and dedication to operating in the correct way.
Promising a bigger and better competition, the 2011 cycle of the competition went to another level, introducing an online testing stage and 5 National Finals which identified the 10 Grand Finalists. The competition also welcomed platinum sponsorship from Toyota Material Handling UK and TNT Express Services UK & Ireland and took a prime position in the media spotlight, thanks to Warehouse & Logistics News who acted as the competition’s media partner.
The great interest in the 2011 competition from sponsors, competitors, employers and the media only cemented its importance within the industry. Speaking after the Grand Final, Dave Copping, Operations Learning & Development Manager for TNT said: "Any focus on safety and competence can only be a good thing. Its competitions such as this that raise the awareness of the risks involved in operating such equipment and why it’s crucial that the correct operating procedure is followed at all times."
The success and strong message of the competition has not only helped to reinforce safety throughout the industry, but has also inspired other organisations to hold their own versions of the competition. Richard Kinnell, Engineering Training Manager at British Airways said of mirroring the competition within their organisation: "The most important aspect of the competition that made me want to do something similar within British Airways was how safe working practices were celebrated and promoted, rewarding people for demonstrating their skills and knowledge in what can be a high risk environment. This approach would fully support our existing health and safety programmes through raising and rewarding appropriate behaviours." Continuing, Kinnell said: "I believe competitions like this can only help in promoting safe working practices in our industry and when combined with high quality, accredited training, can help reduce the number of serious incidents."
Each stage of the competition welcomed a large number of organisations in attendance, many of whom commented on how the competition will benefit the way in which safety in the workplace is currently followed. Charlotte Russell, General Manager of Gist People Services said: "I knew that this competition would be able to effectively highlight the importance of safety within the industry. However, I believe that the Operator of the Year competition had another important ingredient which set itself apart from other competitions – the tasks were very innovative, practical, and fun, but the key message – safety- was always at the forefront."
Continuing, Russell said: "Any method of reinforcing and promoting the importance of safety – and recognising the important contribution an individual makes to safety is entirely welcome. All too often we hear the negative effects of poor safety practices and behaviours, so a competition which is able to recognise and reward the positive results should be encouraged." TNT’s Copping expressed a similar notion, stating: "I believe the competition to be key within the industry; it allows the operators to test their skills and knowledge in a controlled environment. Safety in the workplace is always at the forefront of all that we do at TNT; however, what the final demonstrated is how this discipline can be demonstrated in a fun way."
So what does the future hold for the Operator of the Year competition? Not only does the success of 2011 prove that that the competition has the ability to evolve further and continue as a celebration for operators, but it will also remain a clear example of why safety must be of the highest importance – in any industry. If the Operator of the Year has succeeded in changing the way in which just one organisation thinks about safety in their warehouse, then any future cycles of the competition can only increase this further for the benefit of the industry as a whole.