Can you guess the most common type of powered industrial truck? Considering the title to this post, you likely guessed "forklift," and you are correct! Since the origination of the forklift back in 1917, annual sales have grown to over 190,000 units in the US alone. And, considering our nation's $165 billion dollar material handling industry, it comes as no surprise that forklift sales continue to grow. As more forklifts are introduced into the workforce, so are workers needed to operate the machinery. That brings us back to the highly important topic of forklift safety.
National Forklift Safety Day 2016 is set for June 14th, and we'd like to take the time to re-enforce our dedication to safety. The day, sponsored by the Industrial Truck Association, 'serves as a focal point for manufacturers to highlight the safe use of forklifts and the importance of operator training. It also provides an opportunity for the industry to educate customers, the public, and government officials about safe forklift operation.'
The regulations that govern the manufacture and operation of forklifts are enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and they help spread awareness to the several aspects of forklift safety. Although regulations and standards are a great reference, knowing and following them is what will ultimately lead to safer environments. Awareness and commitment to implementing safety precautions needs to be at the forefront of the industry, as organizations like OSHA work toward updating the federal regulations and consensus standards. National Forklift Safety Day is all about increasing that awareness and driving that commitment to forklift safety.
To people unfamiliar with the working environment of a warehouse, forklift safety sounds as simple as "Watch Where You're Going and Don't Hit Anything." In reality there are dozens of potential hazards that exist, some even occur without as much as turning on the machine. For example, accidents have occurred during the process of mounting the forklift, starting or stopping the forklift; and, those come in addition to the obvious risks that come with higher operating speeds, changing direction, or traveling on inclines. The last thing any operator wants is to see their equipment start moving once they've parked and exited the vehicle.
In regards to the safety surrounding active operation, the most important variable for the operator is visibility. Blocked visibility, including partially blocked visibility, increases the likelihood of an accident, and operators should take every step toward minimizing the risks. The lack thereof could result in a collision, a fallen load, falling off of the loading dock; and, in worst case scenarios, workers getting stuck or crushed by the forklift. Just a friendly reminder: One out of every six workplace deaths are forklift related. We don't want to sound morbid, but it's important to keep these things in mind when operating any piece of heavy machinery.
The innovations in forklift safety have come a long way, and will surely be discussed at this year's Forklift Safety Day. Of all the new technology available, a few of the innovations stand out. Almost all new forklifts are now outfitted with operator presence systems coming standard in the vehicles. These systems are designed to prevent the forklift from moving without a driver seated at the controls. Another major advancement comes in visibility. Since it's nearly impossible for a forklift operator to see every inch around their machine, they can now rely a little bit more on preventative safety solutions like the Pedestrian Alert System. The system, developed by Claitec, works by pedestrians carrying electronic RFID tags or transponders that alert the driver of a potential human risk with clearly visible flashing lights. Other advances include Low Speed Area, which automatically limit the forklift's speed in certain areas of a warehouse, and the Blind Spot solutions which functions like a series of indoor traffic lights. Any of these solutions could be the difference between another day at work and an emergency trip to the ER.
For more information on forklift safety, see OSHA's page on operating forklifts, for more information on National Forklift Safety Day, click here; or, to discuss getting your fleet of forklifts optimized for safety, please contact one of our specialists today.