Getting the right strategy for a safe warehouse
What companies need to consider
When personnel and equipment are working in close proximity in the warehouse, occupational health and safety needs to be given the highest priority. And this doesn’t mean just adhering to statutory guidelines; creating and promoting a safety strategy across the whole of the workforce – whether the management or warehouse operatives for example, encourages a culture of vigilance which ensures that risks are kept to a minimum.
Logistic processes rely on forklift trucks to keep things on the move, and these machines, in whatever form they have evolved since they were first introduced almost 100 years ago, are still indispensable. But people working around them need to be constantly aware, as do the drivers, of the danger they can pose, particularly when their paths may cross. Measures such as an internal safety policy as well as help from technology in the form of safety and assistance systems such as those supplied by ELOKON, can add a crucial extra level of protection for employees.
There are many guidelines available on the correct and safe operation of forklifts from various bodies in the UK such as the British Safety Council and the FLTA (Forklift Truck Association) and the HSE is responsible for enforcing the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety. In Germany, safety measures that need to be implemented are outlined in the Accident Prevention Regulation for Industrial trucks (DGUV Regulation 68). But in whatever country trucks are used, there is commonality in the guidelines or directives, which cover topics such as who should be authorised to operate forklift, making sure the truck is fit for purpose and the need to carry out pre-operational checks.
There are also specific guidelines pertaining to VNA forklifts, which are particularly beneficial for space saving operation, but pose a higher level of risk. Due to their size, they occupy the whole of the narrow working aisle, leaving no room for pedestrians in the aisle to manoeuvre past them. And if the truck’s cab is raised for picking from high bay racking, the driver is unable to see any pedestrians or objects that are in front of it.
In order to avoid these very risky scenarios and accidents between trucks and personnel, safety systems are mandatory in Germany, Austria and Switzerland when the required minimum distance of half a metre between truck and racking is not maintained. By using ELOKON’s ELOprotect personnel protection system, companies can ensure adherence to the Directive for the Operation of Narrow Aisle Vehicles (DIN 15185 Part 2). This system is officially recognised as a replacement measure for operating the narrow aisle warehouse, meaning that it effectively compensates for the missing safety distance. If there is no such measure in place, VNA operation is prohibited. Furthermore, escape routes and emergency exits must be accessible at all times.
Internal safety culture
Companies which promote their own internal safety strategies run much less risk of accidents between pedestrians and trucks. They can, for example, stipulate maximum forklift speeds and define areas where trucks are not permitted to operate and implement seemingly simple but effective measures such safety signage around the premises. The interplay between in-house and external guidelines encourages collective responsibility for enhanced safety awareness.
Practical implementation of safety regulations
The forklift operator needs to take account of rules and regulations at all times throughout a shift and these start even before the truck has been switched on. Checks need to be carried out to ensure that it is in a fit state to be operated, and if any faults are identified they should be reported immediately.
When driving, the operator needs to keep a keen eye on the surroundings in order to be able to spot personnel or obstacles that may be in the vicinity or the path of the truck. In order to avoid tip-over, overloading must be avoided and loads must be correctly secured. This involves knowing the maximum load capacity of the truck, plus the weight of any attachments as even any minor deviations can have serious consequences. The load centre is also crucial: if the load centre of a pallet is too far away from the mast it can adversely affect the truck’s stability.
Keeping within designated speed limits and adapting these to the surroundings is naturally equally important, and this applies in particular when trucks are transitioning from outdoor to indoor areas. ELOKON’s ELOspeed product incorporates a speed sensor to make this scenario much safer: It automatically detects the presence of a roof above the truck and regulates its speed accordingly. This enables trucks to work at the permissible top speed outside, whilst slowing them down when they are inside the warehouse.
If the load obscures the driver’s sightline, the truck must be driven backwards and with great care to enable any obstacles at the rear to be spotted in good time.
Assistance systems enhance safety
But operators need not be alone with their responsibilities; safety and assistance systems can help them to keep themselves and other personnel safe throughout the working day. These intelligent systems keep a technological eye on danger zones to give timely alerts of any risk. Integrated solutions emit various warning signals - acoustic, optical or tactile for example. ELOKON offers these systems with one decisive advantage: as companies tend to accrue forklifts of different makes as time goes by, ELOKON has developed its products to be totally OEM independent so that they can be installed on trucks of any make, any age and any drive type. Mixed fleets can therefore be fitted with the same safety or assistance system, for even further risk reduction.