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A – Z of warehouse and forklift safety
A basic introduction to improving safety in warehouses
Read our A-Z of Safety
A - Assistance systems
Incorporating assistance systems into forklift fleets ensures a higher level of safety than relying purely on the awareness of drivers. Using systems that give various types of warnings (acoustic, optical, tactile) can alert drivers to imminent danger, enabling them to take timely action to prevent accidents. Suppliers of these are taking their cue from the automotive industry to offer technological “guardian angels” for the warehouse environment.
B - Blind spots
If a forklift driver’s visibility is limited, this can pose a risk to anyone working in the vicinity. Ideally when planning a facility care should be taken to eliminate these, but if this is not the case in existing premises the use of a banksman at blind spots can increase safety.
C - Connectivity
Harnessing the possibilities of increased connectivity of equipment through Industry 4.0 can dramatically improve safety in the working environment. Innovative intelligent technology enables forklifts to communicate with each other to avoid collisions and to prevent accidents between forklifts and pedestrians.
D - Daily checklists
It is a legal requirement for daily checks to be carried out on a forklift. Operators who fail to check for damage, leaks, or other unsafe conditions before the truck is used put the whole workforce at risk. Companies using electronic pre-operational checklists such as ELOfleet can rest assured that the driver does not take any shortcuts or skip these crucial measures.
E - Excessive speed
Driving a forklift at excessive speed increases the chances of it becoming unstable, shedding its load or even tipping over. Safe braking distances are determined by many factors – the weight and size of loads, the conditions of the tyres for example. Drivers must be trained and knowledgeable on how long it takes for their forklift to stop when travelling at different speeds. Implementing GPS and RFID speed zoning can substantially improve safety.
F - Forklift capacity
Operators may know not to exceed the rated load capacity of a forklift, but they need to understand the concept of the load centre as well. If the load centre of a pallet is too far away from the mast the forklift will become unstable which may result in tipover. Many OEMs offer devices that alert operators to the danger of tipover and prevent further operation until the danger has been rectified.
G - Guidelines
The Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and other bodies provide a number of publications and fact sheets with detailed information regarding guidelines, legislation and best practice for the safe operation of forklifts.
H - Human error
Human error is the major factor for car accidents, and this also applies to accidents in the warehouse environment. Employees must be trained to be vigilant at all times when either operating or being in the vicinity of working forklifts. Warning and assistance systems use technology to complement human awareness of the surroundings.
I - Injuries at work
According to the FLTA, five workers are seriously injured or killed in incidents involving forklift trucks In the UK every week day. Around 1,300 UK employees are hospitalised each year following serious accidents with forklifts and that number is rising. Pedestrians are particularly at risk – accounting for 57% of those injured or killed in forklift accidents. Observe safety advice to avoid becoming a further statistic.
J - Junctions and intersections
These pose a particular risk and drivers should be trained and constantly reminded to exert extreme caution when approaching busy junctions in the warehouse. Radio based technology offers an extra layer of protection by monitoring accident-prone areas, such as busy aisle intersections. ELOshield, for example, is an RFID based assistance system which monitors the position of pedestrians and forklifts in real time and triggers warnings when they get too close to each other. Watch how ELOshield works.
K - Knocks and impacts
Any impact, however slight, can have an adverse effect on truck performance and compromise the safety of infrastructure such as racking. Fleet management systems use shock sensors which record the instances and severity of impacts and collisions and can activate appropriate measures: the automatic slowing down of the vehicle to walking pace or the notification that supervisor intervention is required to assess damage for example. Our ELOfleet product is a wireless telematics system that provides RFID-based access control, vehicle fault recording, and data evaluation of vehicle/fleet performance.
L - Legislation and liability
In April 2008, the UK Government introduced a new law of Corporate Manslaughter which is aimed at companies and directors of companies where someone is killed because of an accident at work. The penalties for an infringement of this law can be very severe. ELOKON’s safety solutions make it easy to comply with the latest regulations and minimise the risk of accidents, particularly in narrow-aisle environments.
M - Maintenance
A badly maintained truck is an accident waiting to happen. Intelligent fleet management solutions can monitor average use over a certain period of time and can predict when a truck is due for maintenance. Furthermore, any faults, damage or other shortcomings identified during pre-operational checks can be wirelessly transmitted to the maintenance department to allow preventative action to be taken. Prevention is better than cure!
N - Narrow aisles
Narrow aisle operation has a number of advantages in that storage density can be maximised for cost effectiveness and fast throughput times ensure productive high volume handling. But VNA operation comes with its own specific set of hazards, such as the risk of accidents involving personnel and trucks or truck-on-truck collisions. ELOprotect, which won the 2018 FLTA Safety Award, is a self-actuating laser scanner anti-collision system that ensures that VNA forklifts operate at a safe distance from pedestrians as well as from each other. It also enables two vehicles to work simultaneously in one aisle - allowing productive handling, whilst ensuring adherence to the strictest safety guidelines. Find out more about safeguarding employees in VNA warehouses here.
O - Overloading
It is vital that drivers are aware of the load capacity of each truck they operate as well as the weight of any attachments that may be fitted to avoid overloading. Even a minimum overload can have serious consequences. And don’t forget to factor in the weight of any attachments that may be used from time to time.
* A delivery driver was crushed to death when a forklift unloading two pallets of worktops overbalanced. The court heard the maximum operational capacity of the forklift truck was 1,520 kg, whereas the falling load weighed 2,160 kg - meaning it had been 42% overloaded. The company was fined GBP1.2 million. (Reported November 2017)
P - Pedestrian safety
Whenever pedestrians and forklifts are in close proximity there is an increased risk of accidents. The two should be separated by physical barriers wherever possible, and the use of the latest technology such as sensors and assistance systems is recommended to ensure that safe distances are maintained. According to the FLTA pedestrians account for 57% of those injured or killed in forklift accidents.
Q - Qualified drivers only
Do not risk forklifts being driven by anyone who has not been adequately trained to operate a specific type of truck. Products such as the ELOfleet MHE fleet management system use access control measures to ensure that only authorised drivers can use designated equipment, minimising the risk of improper handling.
R - Radio and radar technology
Radio- and radar-based technology is used in driver-assistance systems to detect the presence of forklifts and pedestrians to reduce the risk of accidents. It can also be deployed to regulate the speeds of material handling equipment according to its location - indoors or out. ELOKON’s ELOspeed driver assistance system is an OEM independent product which enables vehicles to work at top speed when outdoors, but slows them down as they come inside, to ensure safe, low travelling speeds for all indoor operation.
S - Seat belts
Seat belts should always be fastened during operation and management needs to insist on compliance with this very basic but vital safety precaution.
* A forklift driver who was not wearing a seat belt died after his truck tipped over. His employers had health and safety policies in place requiring workers to wear seat belts but this was not enforced. Investigation into the fatality revealed that the warning device on the seat belt which should have sounded if the belt was not being worn had been disabled. (reported September 2017)
T - Training
Failure to conduct operator training and refresher courses is a major cause of accidents. Don’t wait for the maximum time allowed between training – regular courses help employees to remember to follow safe practices. And don’t forget conversion training if operators are required to work with different types of trucks.
* A driver was crushed to death when the truck he was using to stack bales of paper overturned and landed on top of him. The Magistrates Court ruled that his employer had breached health and safety legislation in failing to ensure he had been adequately trained in the safe operation of the truck. (Reported January 2013)
U - Unstable loads
These are major causes of accidents – make sure loads are as symmetrical as possible with a low centre of gravity and carried as far back on the forks as possible – or rested on the platform of the truck in the case of sideloader type trucks. The heaviest part of a load should be closest to the forks. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), unstable loads are one of the six most common reasons for forklift accidents.
* A forklift driver was lifting a stack of three trailer chassis the load shifted on the forks and struck another employee. The injured employee suffered from four spinal fractures, a broken left scapula, a broken rib and wounds to his head, shoulder, and ankle. (Reported July 2018)
V - Visibility
To ensure clear forward visibility, the load should be short and carried as low to the ground as possible. If the view in front is restricted, the truck should be driven in reverse slowly, except when driving up ramps. The driver should engage the help of a lookout if necessary to point out any obstructions.
* A fatality occurred when a driver was driving forwards with a restricted view rather then reversing. The forklift became destabilised as it drove over a tyre that was not visible to the driver and subsequently tipped over. (reported September 2017).
W - Watch out for overhead obstructions
Lighting, sprinklers, roller shutter doors and overhead power lines can pose hazards. Operators need to be aware of the layout of utilities and keep checking the surroundings to make sure they avoid any contact with these hazards. Striking any of these can lead not only to damage but also to the forklift overturning.
X - Extra vigilance at all times
The warehouse environment can be full of hazards. A combination of narrow aisles, busy intersections, blind spots, forklifts travelling at varied speeds, personnel on foot and the need to keep to busy loading and unloading schedules can be a recipe for danger. There are various campaigns throughout the year run by associations to highlight how safety can be improved, but extra vigilance should be top of the agenda every working day to reduce the risk of. The FLTA provides invaluable advice on keeping the workplace safe.
Y - Your responsibilities to the workforce
A fork lift truck is one of the most useful pieces of workplace equipment but also potentially one of the most dangerous. Management needs to set exemplary standards for adherence to safety regulations and guidelines and to keep up to date with legislation. The HSE’s publication L117 ACoP (Approved Code of Practice) outlines the main issues you need to know to stay within the law and to keep your workforce safe.
Zones - Zones for added safety
Electronic zones can be created around, for example, accident prone areas or around moving forklifts to prevent vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-person collisions. With ELOKON’s ELOshield product these zones can be flexibly programmed vehicle by vehicle, based on operating requirements, as circles, symmetrical rectangles, or asymmetrical polygons.