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.
There isn’t much other way to say it: If you have a forklift, it is almost surely the most dangerous piece of equipment under your roof. If you have many forklifts, that danger us multiplied.
How dangerous? According to OSHA estimates, there are 61,800 minor injuries, 34,900 serious injuries and 85 forklift related deaths in the United States every year. Since there are almost 900,000 forklifts operating at any given point in the United States, this is something that every operation needs to consider when your forklifts start moving on a busy day. 11% of them stand a good chance of being in an accident or collision every single year. Those aren’t great odds, considering that a forklift in a given warehouse is heavy, moving, and in a noisy and often visually crowded environment.
The National Safety Council has released its list of the top 10 OSHA safety violations for 2009, and there is plenty to chew on if you are running a warehouse, manufacturing facility, military installation, or distribution center. In fact, several of these categories drop directly into the laps of material handling operations. Worse news: violations are up over 30 percent.
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?
At this time of the year, many companies find the need to maintain open access to dock doors and warehouses without letting heat and other environmental controls escape into the cold. The obvious solution has been to install vinyl strip doors, which allow easy access to foot and lift truck traffic while they also keep climate-controlled air in – and cold air out.
We’ve created a guide to specifying vinyl strip doors to help you understand what types of strip materials to use, how much is needed to cover a particular opening, and which mounting system might work best for you.
When you are running an operation with lots of racking, it isn’t uncommon to have to replace an occasional upright or beam, or to add new bays onto an existing row. Sometimes you cannot avoid it, as the rack was purchased years ago, by someone else, from a source you can’t even locate. It might be that you bought used rack and need to fill some gaps in, or it may be perfectly good, 15-year old rack that just needs some expansion or damaged components replaced.
This is done all the time, and although it isn’t an optimum situation for rack stability and safety, you can minimize the issues by following the following guidelines:
Just some tips we’ve picked up along the way when it comes to keeping pallet racks safe:
The majority of pallet rack structural failures result from just three sources – know them, and most of the rest takes care of itself. Those include (1) impacts from a lift truck collision; (2) Misuse and overloading (3) Lack of comprehension that racks can be dangerous, and the lack of a safety oriented mindset. Really, the focus is on #3 gets you to #1 and #2. Operations with a safety mindset will also understand that impacts are deadly, and they know how to safely load their racks.
Know how your rack will be used when you spec it. “The two main rack safety points are the proper initial design of the structure so it doesn’t collapse, and proper training of personnel to ensure a clear understanding of the structure’s operational characteristics,” said Rack Manufacturer’s Institute (RMI) President John Nosfinger in a 2008 Modern Materials Handling article. If you inherited the pallet rack in your operation from someone else, find out the details of the rack system and its design. File that so that anyone can access it, and enforce your capacity ratings so that your racks will not be overloaded or mis-loaded.