About 20 percent of all forklift accidents involve a forklift and a pedestrian colliding. This translates into about 19,000 people being hit by a forklift every year. Creating habits and policies that prevent these collisions, therefore, is an essential aspect of fleet management and warehouse solutions.
The responsibility for avoiding collisions falls on both pedestrians and forklift operators alike. However, OSHA is clear: Forklift operators and businesses that own and use forklifts are responsible for creating an environment that minimizes the chances of accidents occurring.
There are many steps you can take to limit forklift/pedestrian accidents. Here are a few of the most important ones.
Conduct regular forklift maintenance.
You have heard it before: Regular maintenance of your machines catches issues before they become major problems. In the case of forklift/pedestrian safety, it can also prevent accidents by making sure your forklift runs smoothly at all times.
For example, regular inspections of the forklift can catch brake issues before your forklift is unable to stop in time for a pedestrian in its path. Leaks can be patched before they leave slippery spots on the floor. Replacing tires can prevent blowouts that may cause the operator to lose control of the machine.
A comprehensive forklift maintenance plan from your dealer can ensure that a technician conducts all necessary maintenance on schedule. Implementing inspections before every shift and creating an environment that encourages operators to report any problems immediately can also ensure that your machines remain in good working order. The right maintenance can minimize accidents between forklifts and pedestrians.
Create separate forklift/pedestrian pathways.
One of the most effective ways to avoid collisions between forklifts and pedestrians is to keep them away from each other. Delineating separate pathways for forklifts and pedestrians can achieve this goal.
When creating these pathways, physical barriers work best. That way, forklifts cannot accidentally cross into the pedestrian walkway, or vice versa. However, painting or otherwise marking the boundaries of the pedestrian walkways can also work.
Create exclusion zones around your forklifts.
In the event that you cannot physically separate pedestrians and forklifts, you can also create exclusion zones around your machines. These are areas around the forklift where pedestrians are not allowed to enter until the forklift has been stopped and secured and the pedestrian has been given permission by the operator to enter.
Typically, the exclusion zone extends beyond the widest part of the forklift's turning radius. This way, the forklift will not accidentally hit anyone if it turns quickly while performing its job. If you are creating walkways beside the forklift pathways, leaving this same distance between the forklift pathway and the pedestrian walkway is also a good idea.
Use forklift features and accessories to warn pedestrians of a forklift's movements.
The forklift itself can prevent collisions with pedestrians if it has certain features. Some of these features come with the machine when you purchase it. You may purchase and add others as accessories or retrofitted devices for your current forklifts. These are some of the features you can use to prevent pedestrian/forklift collisions:
● Proximity alarms that tell the operator when someone or something is too close to the forklift.
● Lights that delineate the exclusion zone or that make the forklift more visible.
● Backup alarms that warn people in the area that the forklift is moving in reverse.
● Rearview mirrors that give operators better lines of site while using their forklift.
Utilize warehouse solutions to reduce blind spots.
Forklift maintenance is not the only maintenance you can perform to prevent collisions between machines and pedestrians. You can also identify and correct blind spots in your warehouse. These blind spots are areas where forklift operators encounter reduced visibility. For example, some corners may be very difficult for operators to see around.
Reducing the number of blind spots in your warehouse may be as complex as reworking your warehouse layout. It may also be as simple as adding curved mirrors to these areas or adding mirrors to your forklifts to improve visibility. Identifying and improving areas of low visibility can make it much easier for pedestrians and forklift operators alike to avoid each other.
Educate pedestrians and operators on safe interactions with forklifts.
When it comes to interacting with each other, there are many best practices for both operators and pedestrians to follow. For example, operators should slow down and blow their horns at intersections and use spotters when traveling through blind spots. Similarly, pedestrians should understand which hand signals to use to communicate with operators, know where exclusion zones are, and be diligent about keeping an eye out for forklifts.
In order to make sure that everyone can interact safely with each other, you may want to conduct basic safety training. This training should encompass pedestrians (including every visitor) and forklift operators. When everyone knows how to stay safe, the chances of accidents occurring between forklifts and pedestrians fall dramatically.
Forklift/pedestrian safety is of paramount importance in the warehouse and worksite. You can improve safety by performing regular forklift maintenance, creating separate forklift/pedestrian pathways, creating exclusion zones around your forklifts, using forklift features and accessories to warn pedestrians of a forklift's proximity, utilize warehouse solutions to reduce blind spots, and educate pedestrians and operators alike.
Taking these precautions can reduce accidents and improve the safety of your worksite. When you buy a forklift, use a dealer like Darr Equipment to identify the right forklift for your needs and to ensure that you receive the accessories, features, and forklift maintenance packages you need to improve forklift/pedestrian safety in your worksite. Then, implement safety features and conduct thorough safety training to maximize the safety of your worksite as forklifts and pedestrians occupy the space together.