The Need for Forklift Safety
Paul Mulcahy, QHSE Manager at Toyota Material Handling UK, explains why vigilance is needed to prevent accidents involving forklift trucks.
Despite the noteworthy efforts over many years of such respected organisations as the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) to shine a spotlight on the often devastating consequences of lift truck accidents, the number of workplace accidents involving forklifts remains obstinately high.
Indeed, according to government agency, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a worker in the transport and distribution sector suffers a serious injury as a result of an incident involving a lift truck every single day of the year as forklifts colliding when entering or leaving an aisle, trucks overturning, and machines colliding with pedestrians within a warehouse or other industrial site are among the most common type of accident reported.
As, in the overwhelming majority of cases responsibility for the mishap is initially deemed to lie with the truck operator, clearly, any innovation in lift truck technology that alerts the operator to approaching risks has a crucial part to play in making trucks (and the working environment they operate in) safer for everyone.
Toyota has always been at the forefront of the development of new and advanced safety solutions. As long ago as 1999, we launched our iconic SAS – System of Active Stability which is a tandard feature of most of our forklift models and reduces the risk of truck tip-overs by detecting unsafe operating conditions. In simple terms, if the system’s sensors recognise a hazard, features that immediately enhance a truck’s lateral and longitudinal stability are automatically triggered – making it considerably harder to roll or tip the machine.
Simple solutions available from leading manufacturers include LED safety spot lamps that are (usually) relatively cheap and simple to fit, and highly effective at alerting pedestrians to the presence of a lift truck by projecting a coloured spot – red and blue are common colours – several metres behind or in front of a truck.
More sophisticated warning systems for areas with poor visibility use thermal and motion sensors to alert truck drivers and pedestrians to the potential danger of collision.
Whilst the forklift lift truck industry has taken huge steps forward when it comes to developing technology to reduce risks, managers and supervisors at all sites where forklifts are in operation continue to have an essential role to play in optimising safety. In the UK, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to provide safe systems of work and adequate supervision: good and effective management has been shown time and again to reduce accident rates.
Modern fleet management tools also supply warehouse professionals with a host of data for continuously measuring and analysing the safe performance of individual trucks; including tools that automatically place trucks in “creep” speed following a collision pending a reset by a or other authorised person. Fleet management solutions typically also controling forklift access to properly trained and authorised drivers with required safety training and certification, and can even alert employers and drivers when training sessions are due.
Additionally, warehouse trucks can be fitted with integrated telematics and included in fleet management software licences to transform them into into “Smart Trucks” that provide fleet operators with the information they need for total control of forklift operations.
Forklift accidents invariably bring significant costs as a result of lost productivity, building or product damage and, in many cases, fines and compensation claim pay-outs. However the biggest impact is usually on the worker –or workers – that have suffered or witnessed an injury. So, while successful warehousing and order fulfillment is all about maximising efficiency and productivity, those joint aims should never be achieved at the expense of safety.