Temporary Safety Barriers Can Reduce Accidents and Save Lives
Picking aisles, work cells, and temporary work areas need protective measures when forklifts and people interact
You’ve got a pallet load of goods to move into storage areas. But the pallet is situated in an active storage aisle, where forklift trucks often travel. What methods can be used to help reduce the chances that you, or your pallet load isn’t impacted?
Every time you work in a trafficked aisle, the worse the odds
Every year approximately 85 people die from forklift related injuries. Of that number, 20% are workers on foot who were struck by a forklift. Over and above those numbers are the injury stats – 39,000 serious injuries a year. Of those, about 2,300 are forklift injuries. If you have forklifts in your facility, you will have a serious forklift injury incident – the odds are against you: 11% of all forklifts are involved in injury incidents annually.
You also know that people get busy. Workers who are manually depalletizing a load are working on that load. Forklift drivers are trying to retrieve or deliver pallets. But if you’re on the ground, like a cyclist on a busy road, the burden for your personal safety should always be on you.
Separate people and forklifts when possible
First and foremost, separate your forklift and pedestrian traffic to specific travel lanes whenever you can. For normal traffic lanes, defined plans that give both the forklift drivers and pedestrians an assigned walk way or traffic aisle are mandatory for any smart safety plan.
But what can you do for aisles that must be shared? First and foremost, process should be created that inform and reduce this mingling of traffic. People working in those aisles to load racks or pick cartons from lower levels should be shielded from that traffic as much as possible. When they’re working, forklifts should stay out. But we know that’s not always possible, so what are some options to help enforce that dynamic, or protect workers when you can’t help it?
Install motion sensors at ends of aisles or utilize technology like proximity sensors on forklifts to detect people in limited visibility aisles and around corners. Place physical barriers like guard rail to protect workstations, and use floor marking tape to demarcate forklift travel zones within work zones. Institute forklift safety training for all workers and limit visitors to prescribed areas unless escorted. Also, visibility mirrors are an effective and inexpensive way to help drivers be more aware of the people around them in many situations.
Temporary barriers help warn drivers before they enter an aisle
Despite your best efforts to keep pedestrians out of forklift traffic zones, there are going to be times when workers on foot and forklifts must share space. This is very typical in a warehousing situation. In those situations, use portable physical barriers on hand so that workers can set them up to warn drivers of activity in the lane.
Simple, light weight plastic bars that affix to the top of two safety cones to create a quick barrier to traffic. Set up at aisle ends to limit traffic. Not a collision proof barrier, but visually striking and quick to set up. Keep these near the entry ways of a rack aisle for fast access. When significant personnel activity occurs, drop a barrier on each side of the work when you can.
Aluminum or steel accordion gates that can be full or half-height with wheels or carry handles. Set up at aisle ends to limit traffic from entering. Offers some collision protection for workers in the aisle since vehicle will hit gate first. Since these barriers are usually hand-portable, it’s easy to keep them around for maintenance, restocking, order picking and other activities that place people in the the same aisles or areas with lift trucks.
Mesh poly fencing rolls out and is positioned on posts to create a safety perimeter anywhere it is needed. May be used at ends of aisles, to create confined access areas, or for temporary work zones out in the open. Rolls into place conveniently on a hand truck and can be deployed very quickly. Good for keeping people out of areas when machinery is being maintained.
Don’t roll the dice with forklift/pedestrian safety
Don’t gamble that luck will be on your side. When forklifts and pedestrians share a space the danger of injury or death is always present. Protect workers and your business. Provide safety training, safety sensors and safety barriers to keep forklifts and pedestrians separated at all times. One fatality or serious injury just isn’t worth the gamble.
Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.