Forklift safety

Workplace Safety

Monitoring Forklift Safety

All That You Wanted To Know About Forklift Safety

Forklift accidents are one of the most common types of work-related injuries. Injuries can be both serious and non-serious in nature – ranging from fractured bones to spinal cord injuries, amputation, and even death. In the United States alone, forklifts cause around 85 deaths every year.

Are Forklifts Dangerous Vehicles?

An average forklift weighs around 9000 lbs – almost the same weight as a female African elephant. In terms of comparison, an average car weighs approximately 3000 lbs. Also, the weight in a forklift isn’t evenly distributed; it is heavier in the rear as a counterbalance for the weight of items that will be carried in the front. Unlike cars, forklifts have brakes only on the front wheels and have a small turning radius. This makes it difficult for the operator to control the vehicle. It also makes the forklift easier to tip over while turning.  Forklift operators must be cautious not only when driving but also during turning, stopping, or accelerating. Accidents are also common when safety instructions are not followed when lowering or raising the goods that are being carried.

What Are The Common Types Of Forklift Accidents?

Some of the common forklift-related accidents include: forklift overturning, operator falling off the vehicle, operator being crushed or struck by the forklift, and pedestrians being hit by a forklift. The American Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around 20% of forklift accidents involve pedestrians.

Operators who are not careful while turning the forklift could seriously hurt themselves as a result of the forklift overturning. Since forklifts can be driven equally well backward and forward, operators must drive slowly when traveling in reverse. Or, they could end up striking an object in the way and get hurt.

Sometimes, the forklift falls off the loading dock, pinning the operator down or throwing him out of the operator area. This could be fatal as victims could die because of complications from trauma to the torso.

Ideally, a four-foot safety zone must be maintained when a forklift is being operated. This ensures that pedestrians are not driven over. The danger zone naturally varies depending on the length of the load – long loads need a wider safety zone when compared to horizontal loads. Sometimes, accidents can happen even when the pedestrian is outside the four-foot ‘danger zone,’ especially during a blind turn.

Other Common Causes Of Forklift Accidents

Inadequate training is one of the main reasons for forklift accidents. Improperly trained operators could put their lives as well as the lives of onlookers at risk. They must be aware of the latest safety updates, and their performance evaluated periodically. Besides, pedestrians must also be trained to help them understand the basic hazards of working around a forklift and the precautions they must take to prevent an accident. Instructions could include never walking under a load, alerting an operator if you are crossing the path of the forklift from behind, not riding pillion on a forklift, etc.

Forklift speeding is another common problem, especially among experienced operators who become complacent when behind the wheels. A forklift truck shouldn’t be driven at more than 8 miles per hour. And if it’s being operated in traffic areas, the speed should not be more than 3 miles per hour.  Although the operator is aware, speed limits must be posted in bold in and around the driving area as a reminder.

Workplace design and in-house safety regulations are also an essential factor. Consider space constraints before selecting a forklift model and make sure the area of operation is always clear of any obstructions. The loading dock must be clutter-free and clean. And ample warning signs must be posted around forklift parking zones and around the area of operation.

How To Prevent Forklift Accidents?

Proper training helps prevents infrastructure damage and harm to humans. New operators must be trained to help them adapt to a new work environment. They must be trained in handling obstacles, managing pedestrian traffic, and be alerted about changes in floor gradient. Prospective candidates must be subject to a written exam, reflex test, eye test, and behavioral exam while hiring in addition to the professional certification.

Proper maintenance also helps to avert accidents that happen because of faulty accidents. Maintenance personnel must ensure that adequate tools are purchased or replaced promptly. Accessories must be attached securely to prevent slipping.

Effective safety products also help to safeguard persons and property. Pedestrian barriers, back up alarms, safety lights, camera systems, and forklift proximity detection systems can prevent accidents and related injuries.

What Are Forklift Proximity Detection Systems?

Forklift proximity detection systems protect operators and pedestrians by monitoring and alerting the concerned parties. These systems use radio frequency or magnetic field technology that can penetrate through walls, racks, containers, etc. to create visual and audible alerts.

How Does The Forklift Proximity Detection System Work?

The system alerts the operator if an object or person is close to the forklift either by flashing a red signal or by sounding an alarm. Pedestrians are also alerted either by a visual or audible warning. If all else fails or if the pedestrian/object is too close, the system stops the forklift. Forklift proximity detection systems also help to prevent damage to sensitive equipment. This is critical when working with aircraft or other sensitive cargo.

These systems also working by using Radio Frequency Identification tags that are either carried by pedestrians/operators, attached to equipment, or even set up around accident-prone areas. These tags can detect obstructions from half a meter to up to 25 meters and can be operated on the front, back, and sides of the forklift. These systems are easy to install and cost-effective when compared to other safety systems like 360-degree cameras.

As earlier said, forklift proximity systems also work by using magnetic sensors. Unlike RFID –based systems, magnetic sensor-based systems can penetrate through walls, racks, and containers. Here again, a Personal Alarm Device or PAD must be worn by the pedestrian. This device has elements that can sense the magnetic field from the Magnetic Field Generator placed in the forklift. When magnetic fields are detected, an alarm is sounded off to warn the operator and pedestrians.

Since vehicle collision is another common reason for forklift accidents, a magnetic-field based collision prevention system can be fitted on forklifts. These systems sound an alarm when two forklifts are in close proximity.

Companies specializing in proximity alarm systems offer a huge range of innovative products, including remote event monitoring, access control, and area control.

Benefits Of Using Forklift Proximity Systems

  • These are usually fail-safe. Users are alerted if the mechanism isn’t working. Also, the personal alarm devices attached to pedestrians has a low battery alert. And if the operator is approaching a hazardous area, you can control this using a structure monitoring system.
  • You can customize these systems to match your specifications and unique operating environments by using auxiliary devices that work with basic proximity devices.
  • To operate in congested areas or intersections, you can use the area control system – it includes equipment work well in narrow spaces.
  • You can also control access to these devices by using access control systems – it ensures that personnel not equipped with these proximity alarm systems cannot enter operation areas.
  • You can use any number of personal alarm devices without worrying about sounding off all the alarms simultaneously. In essence, the PAD alarm only alerts the particular threat as if it were the only PAD in the area.
  • You can also remotely monitor these operations by installing a remote event monitoring system. This system will record a facility’s operational events and generate reports automatically and even send detailed, customized reports.