Forklift accidents are often severe and account for more than 10% of all workplace injuries. Forklifts being extremely useful, can also be equally dangerous – they weigh around 9,000 pounds and travel up to 18 mph. And unlike our ordinary cars, they have brakes only on the front wheels. Their weight is also not equally distributed, with the rear end being heavier to compensate for the heavy loads in the front during the movement of goods. Forklift safety depends on two factors, viz. proper training and the use of forklift safety products.
Forklift Safety Procedures
Operators and pedestrians require training under occupational safety standards set by international agencies. Only licensed operators must be allowed to operate the Forklift with wear appropriate safety gear. The area of operation must be even and free from loose objects. The load on the Forklift must be evenly distributed and not overloaded. And most importantly, employers must implement a floor marking system to keep everyone safe.
While operator and pedestrian training is essential for safety, innovative safety products will safeguard people and assets—these range from the basic seat belts and safety signs to advanced proximity warning systems.
What Is A Proximity Alert System?
A Forklift Proximity Warning System will help with safety for both operators and pedestrians. An audible and visual warning not only helps to avoid a mishap but also prevents infrastructure damage. And when if the vehicle is too close, the system stops the Forklift automatically. Forklift Proximity Alert Systems work either using magnetic field generators or Radio-Frequency Identification.
Radio-Frequency Identification Proximity Alert Systems
RFID-based Proximity Alert Systems were once considered expensive and required significant investment. However, today, with the advancement of technology, the cost of such systems has reduced considerably. The Forklift Alert System consists of a control unit and antenna mounted on the vehicle. RFID tags carried by pedestrians, together with radiofrequency, detection zones thus created around the Forklift. Every time a pedestrian or tagged object comes in the antenna range, an audible and visual alert. The detection antenna has a 3 to 9-meter detection zone. It operates 360º around the vehicle, which implies that the tags need not be in the line of sight of the detection antenna and can be detected even in places of poor visibility. Also, depending on the area and the size of the vehicle, single or multiple antennas can be fitted.
Electromagnetic fields in the RFID systems help identify and track tags. Depending on their usage, RFID tags can either collect energy from an RFID reader’s radio waves or have a local power source that can operate hundreds of meters away from the RFID reader. The RFID tags can be attached to a lanyard, placed inside a high-visibility jacket, or fitted inside a detection cone. Whenever a person or object is detected within a 3 to 9meter zone of the detection antenna, an alarm will occur.
Magnetic Field Proximity Sensing Systems
Systems using magnetic field detectors use electromagnetic fields to measure direction, rotation, presence, angle, and current to detect disturbances, if any, in the area.
The system works when there’s continuous communication between its two main components, viz, the Equipment Protection Unit or EPU and the Personal Protection Unit or the PPU. The EPU is mounted onto the Forklift and fitted with an audible and visual alert system to alert operators in the event of a potentially hazardous situation. It contains a magnetic antenna to generate a magnetic field with a ferrite core. The PPU is powered by lithium-thionyl chloride batteries and is worn by pedestrians as a safety vest or a hat. It provides an alert either as vibration or as an audible alert, and if the PPU deforms the magnetic field of the EPU, both systems will sound an alarm.
Unlike RFID-based systems, magnetic field-based proximity systems can pass through walls and structures. They can be used even in blind corners and warn through mounds of containers. The system is used to not only detect people and assets but also avoid collisions between two forklifts. When two forklifts fitted with Proximity Alert Systems come in close contact, both operators receive an alert. The system can also be customised to meet the unique needs of a warehouse or establishment. Some of these customisations include:
- Area Control: The Proximity Alert System is configured to match the specific needs of the work environment. The magnetic field generator is placed on any equipment or vehicle according to the establishment’s safety concerns. It can operate together with multiple Forklifts and multiple personal alarm devices. Similarly, the safety system is able to customise for congested and diverse traffic areas.
- Access Control: The alert system can be disabled if the Forklift is passing through a protected area. Similarly, you can restrict access to people or vehicles not carrying the PPU or EPU and prevent them from entering protected areas.
- Remote Event Monitoring: This feature allows a business to record and assess its safety events and other operational information. Email reports are automatically generated to offer users information about a wide range of factors like warning alerts, danger alerts, collision avoidance alerts between vehicles, and even detect violations, if any, in an identified area. You can use the report to determine the need for personnel training, reduce the loss of PPU tags, identify inactive PPU tags, and even study traffic problems. The information can also be customised to match an establishment’s specific requirements. For regular updates, users can access online dashboards.
Implementing the forklift safety technology requires significant investment and training to help employees manage the learning curve. Another option is to request for the proximity systems to be rented or leased.
Benefits Of Using Magnetic Field-based Proximity Alert Systems
The system has a built-in relay to alert operators if the unit isn’t functioning correctly. It’s hardly possible that the hardware would fail. The PPU also sends off an active status indication every few seconds. And if it has a low battery, a warning is sounded. Multiple exact timed handshakes help to remove any nuisance alerts, ensuring the signals are reliable.
Large numbers of forklifts can install together with the EPUs and PPUs. Each PPU can function as if there are no other pads in the facility and will not cause any disruption with a large number of connections. Multiple vehicles can operate within a work area.
Precise and Clear
They are used in various industries, including automotive, steel, glass, oil and gas, and warehousing. It works even the pedestrian is working with his back turned. The magnetic field can penetrate through walls, racks, and blind corners.