Going Beyond Common Sense
“Even if there is a forklift coming, it will stop for me. It’s not a big deal.”
Has this thought ever crossed your mind? If you visit warehouses, or other locations that rely heavily on forklift usage, you can bet someone around you has thought it. After all, we have all stepped out into a crosswalk under the assumption that an approaching car will stop for us. How different can a forklift be?
Very different. And, unfortunately, thousands of people learn that the hard way every year.
Of the 95,000 forklift accidents that occur annually, an average of 20,000 involve an injury, and 100 result in death. Sometimes these tragic events are related to operator error, but not always. Operators can be trained and competent, and equipment can be in perfect condition, but if pedestrians are untrained, negligent or simply uninformed, serious injury, damage or death still can occur. The pedestrian who assumes, “The operator will stop when he sees me,” may be correct in principle, but sometimes the operator simply cannot see the pedestrian.
Common sense is important, but simply using good judgment is not always enough to protect employees, visitors, property, company reputation and profitability. Planning, training and education are the best defense.
One of the best ways to keep pedestrians safe is proper planning when it comes to facility layout. The design of a facility can go a long way to keep pedestrians away from forklift traffic:
Beyond establishing pedestrian walkways, other best practices for pedestrian-safe facility design include:
- Pedestrians should have their own clearly marked walkways that are physically separated by railings or barriers from forklift lanes when possible.
- According to safety regulations, permanent aisles and passages should be clear of obstruction and appropriately marked wherever mechanical handling equipment is used.
- Separate walkways are ideal, but there should at least be adequate walking space on the side of forklift lanes and walkway striping on the floor.
- Requiring walkers to wear helmets, tear-away colorful vests, head phones linked to safety warnings, and other safety gear within the facility.
- Detection systems that set off flashing lights or warning sirens when pedestrians are in the area.
- Sensors or beams that are triggered when forklifts approach, alerting pedestrians with visual or auditory signals.
- Clear signage that may incorporate flashing “Caution” wording built-in to attract pedestrian attention.
- Convex mirrors at intersections to allow operators and pedestrians to better anticipate what is around corners.
- Railroad-style crossing gates where the paths of forklifts and pedestrians cross
Perhaps the most obvious means of countering pedestrian-related forklift accidents is training—both for operators and walkers.
Operators should be trained to:
Likewise, pedestrians should be advised that:
- Always yield to pedestrians and make eye contact when you see them.
- Stop, wait, sound horn and proceed cautiously at all intersections.
- Walk the route first to scout for issues, especially when areas are cluttered.
- Use a spotter in areas where visibility is impaired.
- Warn pedestrians to stand clear verbally, with horns or alarms when approaching.
- Use colored lights, such as blue LED safety spotlights to visually attract the attention of forklifts.
- Don’t move trucks without clear view of your route, and face the direction of travel.
- Start, stop, travel, steer and brake smoothly.
- Never allow anyone to stand or pass under your load or lift mechanism.
- Never carry people on forks.
- Forklifts cannot stop suddenly and maintain load and truck stability
- Pedestrians should stay clear of all forklifts in operation
- Driver visibility may be limited, making it unsafe to assume anything about “right-of-way”
- Be aware that forklifts often have a wide rear swing radius
- Falling loads from forklifts or storage racks can be as dangerous as a collision
- Pedestrian walkways should be used at all times
- All posted signs must be recognized and obeyed
- Pedestrians should not ride on forklifts unless authorized on lifts designated for riders
With the proper education, the chances of pedestrian-related accidents can be greatly decreased. Remember, not all pedestrians will necessarily be trained employees; visitors to a work site may not be accustomed to being in close proximity to forklifts. For this reason, additional measures related to equipment and facility design may be necessary to maintain a safe environment.
One of the most important means of avoiding forklift-related accidents is to ensure equipment is in good condition on a regular, consistent basis. To begin, this should include pre-operation inspections
according to carefully maintained checklists. Any red flags raised during inspection should immediately lead to forklifts being locked out and tagged out of service, and the appropriate supervising personnel should be notified. After completing the pre-operation checklist, the forklift operator should turn on the truck and inspect all of the running parts of the machine, ensuring propulsion, braking and other systems are fully functional, as well.
While Toyota forklifts are rigorously designed with safety in mind, there are some accessories that can be added to a forklift to make pedestrians more aware of their location. Accessories vary by application and often include back-up alarms, flashing lights/strobes/rotating beacons and rearview mirrors.
Poor judgment, or a lack of common sense, is one problem that results in pedestrians being injured around forklifts. An equally dangerous challenge is complacency. When a location or operator has a long-standing history of safe operations, it is easy for smart, trained, talented workers to become complacent and thus fail to remain properly alert to the possibility of accidents. However, by ensuring that occupants of a facility are properly trained, equipment is properly maintained, and the facility itself is properly designed for safe forklift and pedestrian use, you will have the best possible chance of maintaining a safe workplace moving forward.
For more safety ideas, contact your local Toyota forklift dealer
and request a site safety survey
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