Configuring a Forklift Warning Light

Your lights must be set consistently across all vehicles in a facility to help pedestrians understand distances

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Forklift warning light distance

When it comes to pedestrian safety in warehouses, the problem can be plain old attention span

People who aren’t paying attention are at the most risk, particularly those who walk near and around forklifts. People don’t pay attention because they’re busy, worried about deadlines. Or they’re absorbed in their smart phone, or in a conversation with someone. The reasons vary, but when forklifts are involved, the results can be deadly.

Most experts agree that the key is training for both the pedestrians and forklift drivers, and that’s correct. Others will also point out the need to enhance that training with various facility and equipment upgrades. That’s why many companies have installed forklift warning lights, often called “blue lights”, that project a disc of light that precedes the forklift as it moves. Since the forklift is typically the most dangerous piece of equipment in any facility that uses it, these types of low-cost enhancements are sensible and easy.

The blue lights are highly effective in part because they are “disruptive”. Unlike tape or paint lines for traffic management, or static signage, they aren’t always there. They don’t mentally blend into the background as easily as safety precautions that are seen all day, every day by warehouse employees.

Since these lights are installed on so many forklifts, it’s important to understand exactly how they should be mounted for maximum effectiveness.

Recommended settings:

  • Recommended Placement: Front and Rear of the vehicle
  • Recommended Beam Pattern Intensity: 830+ Lux (on the ground)
  • Recommended Mounting Height: 6’8″ – 8’4″ (2.0m – 2.5m)
  • Recommended Beam Pattern Distance (from Vehicle): 14’9″ – 17’11” (4.5m – 5.5m)

It’s important that once you have installed the lights, that you check them for distance. If the light is tampered with, or moves, it can affect its distance. Pedestrians who are used to a certain “lead” distance will assume the forklifts are always set at that distance, so consistency of distance, and consistency across all vehicles is important.  A change in that distance can lead to dangerous assumptions on the part of pedestrians.

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Scott Stone Cisco-Eagle's Director of Marketing. He has over 25 years of experience in the industry.

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  • Dave Hoover

    I think one large concern is missed in the article that is as important as any comment made. That is how they should be wired. So that pedestrians don’t “tune them out” they should be wired so that the light is only on when the forklift is moving in that direction. So if you have them on the back, the light should be tied into a circuit like the back up alarm that only has it illuminated when in reverse. If the lights are in both directions then it could be wired into the directional controls of the truck to turn the lights on and off as needed. Leaving them on in all directions at all times is a real mistake and can create a “disco” in your warehouse, sending warnings when there is really no danger (as the truck drives away).

  • Dave, thanks for your comment! We currently recommend that lights be wired so that they are “always on.” As shipped from almost any provider (Cisco-Eagle included) they are very easy to install that way. Since the light is static when the truck isn’t moving, it really doesn’t catch the eye of a pedestrian and create the kind of “disco” visual clutter. That I’m aware of no one provides standard circuits that do what you are describing, but a skilled tech or mechanic can install lights so that they pigtail into existing reverse/tail lights. Even in the case of a forklift leaving an area (the light is moving away) you aren’t creating a false warning, as the pedestrian can clearly understand that a forklift has departed the area.

  • Marna

    Are there any guidance documents to help with pre-trip inspections to make sure the blue lights are set to the recommended beam distance?

    • Marna, I’m not aware of any documentation, but will see if I can find something. However, 15 to 17 feet is the typical application and can be measured when the forklift is started. Thanks!