The Material Handling Industry of America (MHI) has named Cisco-Eagle’s AisleCop® Automated Forklift Safety System a finalist for the 2014 Innovation Award, Best New Innovation Category. Judging, and the final awards, happens at Modex 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.
In recent years, many vendors have created products to help increase pedestrian safety in warehouses, factories, and other areas where forklifts operate. This is no wonder: accidents in this area are far too frequent, and often very devastating or even fatal. Because Cisco-Eagle provides such solutions, we have been asked about the compliance of these products to industry standards, such as the AIAG’s Pedestrian & Vehicle Safety Guidelines.
OSHA estimates 85 deaths, 35,000 serious injuries, and another 62,000 non-serious injuries. More than 11% of forklifts are involved in these accidents every year, meaning that the forklift in your warehouse is statistically destined to have an accident before it goes out of service.
The cherry on top of this awful pie? Almost 40% of those accidents, depending on whose numbers you follow, involve a pedestrian. And this doesn’t take into account the accidents that damage property, but don’t hurt people. Forklift-to-forklift collisions, or forklift colliding with warehouse racks aren’t included in these numbers if people aren’t injured.
According to OSHA, training is the key to forklift safety, and there is fundamental agreement on that. Training can and does make a serious dent in the high injury rates suffered due to industrial traffic. Training must happen, and it must be repeated. But that begs this question: Why has training failed to move the needle when it comes to serious forklift related injuries? The numbers seem to have stabilized at an average of 100 deaths per year, and have stayed consistently at that level for years.
We see two kinds of operations that have shown interest in, or implemented an AisleCop® forklift safety gate system. The first are those companies who have defined traffic plans and are looking to prevent possible accidents in high-risk, limited-visibility, or heavy-traffic aisles. They foresee potential accidents and are taking measures to prevent them. The second kind are companies who have had an incident, or a near-miss.
In both cases, the question has been “how can I justify this system?”
Aside from the fact that it could help save a life, or help prevent horrific injuries (the only kind that a forklift-pedestrian accidents seem to produce), AisleCop® can also save money in a variety of ways.
We have created a document, free for download, that you can use if you’re pitching a safety system to your management. It’s a short, but informative read.
Shipping & receiving docks are a particularly dangerous area of most operations because so much activity takes place in a relatively small space. In your average warehouse, the docks take up 20% of the square footage but host 80% of the activity. As you know, at times that activity can be fast-paced – even frenzied as full pallets are taken in, or loaded ones are being loaded into trailers. This is a time rife with possibilities for accidents. How can you prevent them?
One percent of factory accidents involve forklift trucks, but the forklift accidents produce ten percent of the physical injuries. That’s an astonishing ratio, but not all that surprising given the nature of forklifts and the way they are utilized. Forklifts are dense, heavy-mass vehicles. When they collide with something – or someone – the results are devastating, even at low speeds.
Some leading types of lift truck accidents are:
Workers struck by forklifts
Loads are dropped onto employees
Driver catches his body between the forklift and other objects
The forklift is driven off the loading dock
Kind of a terrifying list, don’t you think?
Most forklift accidents are blamed on operator error, but that is just partially true – and something of a cop-out. Rough estimates say that a quarter of forklift accidents could be avoided by addressing environmental concerns. When you eliminate those, it helps you understand better when a driver is truly ineffective, or just hamstrung by the way your warehouse is set up. In other words, before you point the finger at the driver, take a look at your operation…
You can see some of the mistakes happening in this video. Others aren’t so obvious.
What were the problems here?
#1: The driver is traveling too fast. That said, he’s not racing, but that doesn’t matter. He’s carrying a wide load through a narrow space. He was either distracted or he went faster than he should have through a tight spot, or both.
#2: The aisle is cluttered. Why create a pinch point with stacks of drums? Poor housekeeping in a warehouse is dangerous. One of the best things you can do for safety in your warehouse is to make sure there is adequate — or more than adequate — aisle space. It should be clear, it should be clean, it should have space and it should be highly visible. It should never be close to this tight. If you need space, find it elsewhere.
#3: The pallet racks were possibly overloaded. That forklift was moving too fast for the situation, but it wasn’t pedal-to-the-metal-fast. Although the weight of a forklift can turn a slow impact into devastation, a properly loaded, undamaged rack with upright post protectors should not necessarily collapse when struck slowly. While you never want to smack an upright, exceeding rack capacities can make them much more susceptible to collapse, even to minor impacts. Always know your listed capacity, and stick to it.
#4: The uprights may have suffered previous damage. This can cause a collapse. I’ve been in warehouses where you could walk for five minutes and find a dozen bent uprights. That’s insanity. There isn’t any way to tell whether or not the upright was dented from this video, but the point is this: routinely inspect your racks and assess your uprights. They’re cheap to replace, and doing so could prevent injuries and major accidents.
#5: The driver should not have fled the forklift. It has a cage for a reason — to protect him from falling objects. He was much safer inside than he was doing the “Die Hard” jump out.
This is a great video from WorkSafeBC on how to prevent forklift injuries from a pedestrian’s point of view.
As a pedestrian in a forklift environment, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself safe. Anyone who runs a warehouse or industrial facility understands the dangers, and drivers should be trained. But do you train the pedestrians, the order pickers, the managers, and vendors who sometimes roam your facility?
If you’ve ever stopped at a traffic light, and shuddered at the texting, teenage (or all too often, an adult) driver in the next lane, you probably thought this is an irresponsible person who shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Given statistics that smart phone users are impaired as drunk drivers, it’s a serious and deadly issue; most states have laws specifically forbidding texting on the road. The question is, do you tolerate that kind of distractions for forklift drivers in your warehouse? Should you have the same rules? (Short answer: yes).