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Forklift Safety & Industry Commentary from Brett Wood

(Read the video transcript here.)

Video Transcript

Mitch MacDonald (00:15):
Hi, I’m Mitch MacDonald. Welcome to this edition of DCV TV’s Meet the Rainmakers. Today we’re very pleased to be joined by Brett Wood, who is President and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America, and also Chairman of the Board with the Industrial Truck Association, or as it’s more commonly referred to, ITA. Brett’s with us today at the ITA’s annual fall meeting in Florida to discuss lift truck safety. Brett, welcome. Really appreciate you taking the time to join us in the midst of this very busy conference this week in Florida.

Brett Wood (00:40):
Yeah, I’m honored to be here. Thanks for having me.

Mitch MacDonald (00:41):
Our pleasure. Let’s get right into it. Could you give us maybe a snapshot of the role forklifts play in the industry, and why safety is of paramount importance?

Brett Wood (00:56):
Yeah, good question. Forklifts are really the workhorses of our economy industry. Forklifts pretty much touch everything that we own, see, and do around your home, consumer products, and a lot of industries, variation of beverage, food, furniture, automobile industry. And so there’s a wide variety. And so that makes it challenging to design and build forklifts just for one industry. So we have to get creative and have options that are available. But what goes across all the industries that we found over the years is that safety is very important. Safety is very important to obviously the end user, and also to the manufacturer. So we must always continue to be rigorous in our efforts to work with our products, and also our training across the different types of industries to make sure that they operate the forklift safely.

Mitch MacDonald (02:01):
Right. And the notion of workplace safety has been there, I suppose to some extent, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Brett Wood (02:09):
A long time. [inaudible 00:02:10] a long time.

Mitch MacDonald (02:11):
But it continues to get heightened and heightened attention, emphasis, and importance within Toyota and the mission you have in serving the market across these various vertical industries or whatever. What do you do to keep safety, if you will, at the tip of the sphere?

Brett Wood (02:26):
Yeah. So the design of the products is important, but training is probably the most important. And OSHA has had a lot of influence in that, and it dates back to a really important milestone for our industry. It was in 1999 when OSHA regulated and said it was mandatory that every operator had to be sufficiently trained, especially for that type of forklift that they were operating. So that was a key point. And all the manufacturers in industry do a great job of offering training programs, emphasizing the importance of training. And there’s been actually some real data to prove that since 1999, since OSHA made this so important, that there has been less accidents in the forklift world since that time. So good results.

Mitch MacDonald (03:24):
A government regulatory initiative that actually worked to good benefit. That’s-

Brett Wood (03:27):
It actually worked very well.

Mitch MacDonald (03:29):
That’s good.

Brett Wood (03:29):
And still continuing today.

Mitch MacDonald (03:32):
Staying on the training, has the training itself changed, in the subject matter, the types of things, but lift trucks are coming now embedded with a lot more technology. How has that affected the way the training process has gone?

Brett Wood (03:50):
So the training is required to be updated too, also. So like you say, new technology comes on a forklift, the operator needs to be re-certified perhaps.

Mitch MacDonald (04:01):
Oh, okay.

Brett Wood (04:01):
And then also, if you’re trained on a type of forklift that let’s just say is a sit down and in chair with a steering wheel, counterbalanced type of forklift, that doesn’t mean you’re certified to also operate a standup reach truck, for example.

Mitch MacDonald (04:18):

Brett Wood (04:19):
So your certification is not transferable to a different type of forklift. So that new technology that you’re referencing, it does play a role, and each operator has to be trained specifically for that forklift that they wouldn’t normally operate throughout the day. So there’s a lot of differences.

Mitch MacDonald (04:38):
There are. Yeah. And well, because there’s a lot of different applications and uses and environments in which they use them, which makes sense.

Brett Wood (04:43):
Some are moving product just from point A to point B. Sitting on a counterbalanced truck. Some are moving product from point A to point B, and then to point C vertically in a reach, narrow aisle, or order picker type of environment, even a man up type of environment is very different than even walking behind a product, a forklift you might see at a retail store.

Mitch MacDonald (05:05):
Yep. Yep. No, and it’s-

Brett Wood (05:07):
And that’s another good point, too. The pedestrian awareness is also very important.

Mitch MacDonald (05:13):

Brett Wood (05:14):
So part of that training, not just how you operate the forklift, but your awareness of pedestrians, other people around that environment.

Mitch MacDonald (05:22):
Well, and I suppose, and especially when a component of business today is everyone’s trying to be as fast as possible, right? And that can manifest itself right down to the way in which the units are moving through say the DC of the warehouse.

Brett Wood (05:36):

Mitch MacDonald (05:37):
I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but the safety of the workers in the facility not on the truck has really got to be considered.

Brett Wood (05:43):
I think you’ve seen it in some lumber applications or big stores that you go to, and you might see a forklift operating where there are customers.

Mitch MacDonald (05:52):
Yep. That’s right.

Brett Wood (05:53):
Right? And they do a very good job nowadays of closing that aisle. There’ll be, hopefully, some yellow flags or something saying, “Customers, you’re not allowed in this aisle because there’s a forklift operating right now to bring down that product.”

Mitch MacDonald (06:07):
Yeah, and that’s a good, because I think many of us have absolutely seen that.

Brett Wood (06:10):
Yeah. And there’s also some options on forklifts that won’t allow a customer to go and sit on that forklift and turn it on.

Mitch MacDonald (06:19):
Yeah. Is that the, what, the vehicle management systems, I guess we’re referring to now?

Brett Wood (06:22):
Vehicle management, exactly.

Mitch MacDonald (06:23):
That can actually limit-

Brett Wood (06:24):
Who gets to use that forklift.

Mitch MacDonald (06:26):

Brett Wood (06:27):
So there’s people, unfortunately like me out there, I see forklift, I want to go sit on it. Oh, this looks pretty interesting. But if I’m not trained, I shouldn’t be doing that.

Mitch MacDonald (06:36):
I wonder if we could get that into automotive, because I know we all see a lot of people on the roads every day that really should not be driving a car at all.

Brett Wood (06:42):
Right. But the vehicle management system is a wonderful technology advancement that’s come out recently. And you have to maybe swipe a card. You’ve been trained. So now you’re certified to operate that truck, otherwise the truck won’t turn on. And you have to pass some type of test to get to that point. So it’s helped a lot.

Mitch MacDonald (07:06):
Back to the theme, tie a couple things we’ve talked about here together as we work toward a close. The theme of the importance of safety being ever-present, and if anything, being heightened continually, and then the future, whether it’s technology based, equipment design based, however, what’s going on at Toyota, or if you prefer, in the industry overall, about future safety initiatives?

Brett Wood (07:29):
Okay. So Toyota has been proud to be a leader in the safety world, and we’ve introduced in around 1999, a system of active stability that has a lot of sensors on the forklifts to help it operate safely. And so we’ve been proud of that. And I think you’ll see more of that type of technology in future forklifts. It’s very important to always reflect the training, the training at OSHA that’s required for operator training. You can’t design a perfect forklift. So training is important, and also awareness. So with ITA, Toyota supported the National Forklift Safety Day, and we think that’s done a lot too with awareness, with good support from OSHA and from some government people to bring awareness to how important this might be for our future.

Mitch MacDonald (08:27):
And 2016 will be the third annual?

Brett Wood (08:30):
Third annual-

Mitch MacDonald (08:30):

Brett Wood (08:31):
… National Forklift Safety Day in June. But in the future also, safety design, ergonomic designs, productivity factors. If you combine those three together, they work together in the forklift of the future. And if you have a safe, comfortable operator, you’ll have a productive operator.

Mitch MacDonald (08:54):
That’s, yeah. It’s nice that they all mesh rather than being opposed to one another in terms of the objectives.

Brett Wood (08:59):
I agree. I think that’s important.

Mitch MacDonald (09:03):
Because safety is such an … And we know this from our readers, you know from your customers, you talk about safety, safety, safety. Just to close, any resource you might point the viewers to who want to learn more about Toyota, what’s going on with Toyota? A website perhaps?

Brett Wood (09:17):
Sure. So starting with ITA, National Forklift Safety Day. You can go to the ITA website and learn more about that.

Mitch MacDonald (09:23):

Brett Wood (09:24):
And then with Toyota, there’s ToyotaForklift.com on the website, and it will highlight product features and some of the SAS type systems that I mentioned, and also a resource for training. And we can’t emphasize that enough.

Mitch MacDonald (09:40):
Yeah. Well, in fact, we can come back to that. I was just about to close, but come back to that. Toyota, its dealer networks, the company itself, always available to customers for questions about training and safety, I’m sure.

Brett Wood (09:52):
Absolutely. Offering training to customers, any questions. There’s a lot of resources available for the end users and the customers to get sufficiently trained.

Mitch MacDonald (10:01):

Brett Wood (10:01):

Mitch MacDonald (10:02):

Brett Wood (10:02):

Mitch MacDonald (10:03):
It’s great to see you. Thanks for taking the time again.

Brett Wood (10:04):
Thank you very much.

Mitch MacDonald (10:05):
I wish you safe travels.

Brett Wood (10:06):
Good to see you too.

Mitch MacDonald (10:06):
Alrighty. Bye bye.

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