Here are some ideas on preventing forklift accidents for pedestrians in warehouses and factories.
It is very common for forklifts to move pallets with palletized and stretch film wrapped products around facilities.
There are thousands of accidents every year for personnel on foot in factories caused by forklifts. The good news is that these types of accidents can be greatly reduced (even eliminated) when pedestrian safety becomes a priority at the facility and a comprehensive safety barriers program is in place. The general approach need not be overly complicated, in fact there are many similarities to the pedestrian safety principles of vehicles that are familiar to us in our everyday life on the streets.
Understand the dangers of forklifts
Preventing an accident is a goal of all pedestrians and forklift operators, whether inside or outside a facility, however, collisions between pedestrians and vehicles, in this case, forklifts, are not the only hazards. There is another: loads that can fall off the racks or the forklift itself. Imagining the potential consequences for a pedestrian in the warehouse when a load falls from a forklift doesn't require much imagination. A pedestrian should never take a "shortcut" when passing under a suspended load, no matter how fast you are. Then, too, there is the danger of pedestrian fall, which can result when pedestrians climb onto the forks or claws of the forklift or from when people ride on the forklift in a location other than the driver's seat.
Direct pedestrian traffic
In the facilities there must be well-identified pedestrian crossings. Whenever possible, it is recommended that there be exclusively pedestrian zones. In areas where pedestrian and forklift traffic must coexist, painted lanes can be used to clearly establish where pedestrians should travel and where forklifts should travel. Such pathways can be made more effective by using special floor paint that warns that forklifts are operating in the vicinity, as well as by the use of signs that tell pedestrians to be vigilant. Physical safety barriers, such as guardrails or fences along the outer side of walkways, provide an additional measure of protection.
When driving a car, it is common from time to time to have to brake suddenly, but forklifts are not designed for that type of sudden stop, given the rear counterweight and the practical consideration that a sudden stop in motion can cause loading. becomes unstable. Another forklift feature that pedestrians may not be aware of is the wide arc the rear of the equipment makes when turning, and furthermore, due to the rear steering, the rear can pivot around surprisingly fast.
Pedestrians should maintain a respectful distance when around this equipment. In this way, pedestrians are highly dependent on vision and hearing, however, these abilities have their limits and in industrial environments they can be considerably diminished due to noise and other distractions.
Pedestrians must be aware of intersections and blind corners. They should look for the presence of convex mirrors as a visual aid. Pedestrians should also remain sensitive to flashing forklift lights, especially those that indicate the forklift is moving in reverse. It is important that floor crews wear high visibility clothing to help forklifts avoid accidents.
Depending on how they are powered, forklifts generate different levels of noise, so pedestrians should not use the absence of noise in the belief that forklifts are not nearby. Electric forklifts are extremely quiet, which is good, but they can surprise personnel on foot in a noisy factory.
Although all forklifts are equipped with horns and many are equipped with alarms that sound constantly while the forklift is in reverse, they compete against other environmental noises, for example, those made by machinery and other equipment in the plants. Pedestrian hearing, or at least the ability to perceive the presence of a forklift by its sound, can be further compromised by the requirement for hearing safety equipment such as earplugs. To further complicate matters we have the phenomenon of habituation: a pedestrian becomes so used to background noises that part of him is unaware of other sounds that can alert him to danger.
Requirements for forklift operators
Like the driver of a car, the driver of a forklift must be aware of the damage that can be inflicted on a pedestrian in the event of an accident. A diligent driver should not place complete reliance on the safety-related devices mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, but rather the driver should always be willing to yield the right of way and be vigilant, regardless of whether pedestrians are following recommended practices. More than that, the driver must always be cynical, waiting for pedestrians to do the wrong thing.
And whenever necessary, a forklift driver must resort to personal communication. First of all, the driver must be sure of having the attention of pedestrians. A safe and effective way to do this is to make sustained eye contact. After that, the driver should use any combination of words, gestures, and signals necessary to communicate what is being asked of the person on foot. Finally, the driver should not move the forklift until the pedestrian has complied with the directions.
Implicit in all of the above is that the driver maintains a clear view regardless of the direction of travel, for example, if the height of the load obstructs the front view of the driver, the driver must travel in reverse. You should never drive blind. If the environment requires it, the driver should get off the forklift to make sure the area is clear and traffic is safe. In addition, the driver should request the assistance of an "observer" when necessary to provide directional instructions and keep pedestrians away.
A safe company is a better company
Pedestrian safety is a vital component of any plant safety barriers program. In addition to lost time and lost production, forklift accident prevention builds team spirit in a facility. Pedestrian safety must have the participation and approval of the facilities management. In any company, both workers and visitors to the facilities always appreciate the concern of the high command for safety.