Forklift Safety

Workplace Safety

What is Forklift Proximity Alert System?

How Does The Forklift Proximity Alert System Work

Forklift accidents are often severe in nature and account for more than 10% of all workplace injuries. This is because forklifts while being extremely useful, can also be equally dangerous – they weigh around 9,000 pounds and can travel up to 18 mph. And unlike any ordinary vehicle, 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 that will be carried in the front. Forklift safety depends on two factors, viz. proper training and the use of forklift safety products.

Forklift Safety Procedures

Operators and pedestrians must be trained in accordance with occupational safety standards set by international agencies. Only licensed operators must be allowed to operate the forklift and must be made to wear appropriate clothing. 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.

Forklift Safety Products

While operator and pedestrian training is essential for safety, innovative safety products must be used to safeguard people and property. 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 is designed to alert the operator and pedestrians who are too close to the vehicle. 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 alert system consists of a control unit and antenna that’s mounted on the vehicle, and RFID tags carried by pedestrians. By using radiofrequency, detection zones can be created around the forklift. Every time a pedestrian or tagged object comes in the range of the antenna, an audible and visual alert is sounded.  The detection antenna has a 3 to 9-meter detection zone and operates 360 degrees around the vehicle. This means 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 be made to 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. Every time a person or object is detected within a 3 to 9meter zone of the detection antenna, an alarm is sounded.

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 on to 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 if a forklift is nearby. And if the PPU deforms the magnetic field of the EPU, both systems sound an alert. An EPU is expensive – it costs around $1000, while PPUs costs around $100 per pad.

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 can be used to not only detect people and assets but also avoid collision 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 customized to meet the unique needs of a warehouse or establishment. Some of these customizations include:

  1. Area Control: The proximity alert system can be configured to match the specific needs of the work environment. The magnetic field generator can be placed on any equipment or vehicle according to the establishment’s safety concerns. It can be operated with multiple vehicles and multiple personal alarm devices. Similarly, it can be customized for congested and heavy traffic areas.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Remote Event Monitoring: This feature allows a business to record and assess its safety events and other operational information. Email reports can be 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 identify the need for personnel training, reduce the loss of PPU tags, identify inactive PPU tags, and even study traffic problems. The reports can also be customized to match an establishment’s specific requirements. For regular updates, users are also offered access to online dashboards.

 

Needless to say, implementing this technology requires significant investment and training to help employees manage the learning curve. And that is why these proximity systems can be rented or leased as well.

Benefits Of Using Magnetic Field-based Proximity Alert Systems

  1. Intuitive:

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 alerts are reliable.

  1. Customized:

Any number of EPUs and PPUs can be used without worrying about a conflict. Each PPU can function as if there are no other pads in the facility. The number of pads that can be used in a zone does not affect the shape or the size of the zone, or on reaction time. Multiple vehicles can be operated within a work area.

  1. Precise and Clear:

It can be used in a wide range of 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.